The front door opened and a woman walked slowly into our office. Her soft gray hair swept over her forehead and was secured with a little barrette.
“Good Afternoon,” she said, and then introduced herself.
Her name was immediately familiar, as the woman I had recently mailed a stack of donation envelopes to. I love putting a face to a name and was really glad that she stopped in. “How can I help you?” I asked.
The woman gently extended her arm and handed me the stack of envelopes. “You mailed these to me recently. I have donated to the food bank for years,” she said.
“I know you have. Thank you so much for your support,” I told her.
“Well,” she went on, “I’ve lost my pension. I wish I could still help you, but I can’t.” Her conversation was not rushed. She seemed both deliberate and confused at the same time. “I thought you might need these envelopes. Maybe someone else can use them,” she told me.
I told her how sorry I was to hear that she no longer had the financial security she was accustomed to. I thanked her for bringing the envelopes in, thanked her for introducing herself to me and thanked her for years of support. I asked if she wanted to sit down with me.
“The truth is,” she looked briefly over a shoulder, “I might need help. Do you know where I am able to get food?”
After taking a position at the Food Bank Council of Michigan in Resource Development, I began acquainting myself with the donation records. At first, the records felt like an ocean of names that would take years to develop a relationship with.
Over a short period of time, this collection of donor names became less mysterious. Our Executive Director and I made phone calls, sent personalized letters and thank you notes. Donors started becoming familiar. I quickly learned that our donor’s support for hunger relief work is as genuine as our gratitude for their support.
In a donor database, there is always a little section to make notes if there is something that needs to be documented, such as Spoke to Donor in February, 2013 or Donor wishes to remain anonymous. In this section, I had come across a note that read, Send this donor a stack of donation envelopes at the beginning of each year. I made a note and did so around the first week of January. It was about two weeks later that this lovely woman walked into our office.
This story is not an isolated event. My colleagues in the food bank network can all speak of an instance when a donor became a client. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to hunger for just such a reason. If anything happens to reduce or remove their access to finances or food assistance, they are at the mercy of the emergency food response.
For all of her years of service to those who were less fortunate, we hope that someone else will step forward to make sure that this former donor will have food in times of emergency.
It doesn’t seem fair. Hunger isn’t fair. Hunger doesn’t care what you did with your life or how good of a person you are. Circumstances shift and everything can change in an instant. Investing in a community support system is a positive thing. There are good people all over Michigan that are grateful for the meal.