Ordinary Groceries, Extraordinary Cause


Sorry, folks. None of these are for you. If it makes you feel better, I couldn’t have any, either.

Last year on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

[My employers] gave several hundred of us the opportunity to spend half a workday (on the clock!) participating in scheduled acts of service at various charities throughout Indianapolis — charitable synergy courtesy of United Way. I signed up and went forth to serve at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, one of the most prominent resources in local hunger relief efforts. Despite their long-standing presence and far-reaching efforts, Gleaners has yet to run out of work. Like any major city, Indianapolis has its share of poverty-stricken residents, food deserts, regrettable layoffs, and hard times during recessions. Officially, the Food Bank doesn’t hand out food directly to the needy; it’s the distributor that provides foods to food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, domestic abuse hideaways, and the like. The Food Bank, in turn, receives its supplies via donations from the big-box stores (Kroger, Meijer, Marsh, Walmart), from government suppliers, and from food drives held by other corporations and organizations. It’s a complex delivery system with many important components, and help is always welcome.

Thus, here we were again, dozens of hands and feet invited inside to help Gleaners with the process wherever they’d have us.


Our workload had to be kept simple because they didn’t have days or weeks to train us. That meant no driving forklifts or delivery trucks, no negotiating with suppliers on the phone, no bookkeeping activities, no brainstorming new ad campaigns, no changing the warehouse layouts for better feng shui, and so on.


Last time I wound up on box-making duty. This time I shifted back and forth between a few different activities involving vegetables, mostly canned peas — unstacking, sorting, approving/rejecting, labeling, repackaging, restacking, and all the necessary little steps in between.

Canned Peas!

Volunteer work doesn’t have to be a sexy, mesmerizing undertaking in an exotic locale, but I was glad once again for the chance to participate in the kind of beneficent team effort that makes a difference for so many…even if I didn’t get any free cookies to take home or devour on the spot. I’ll admit a few of us stood and stared at them whenever time allowed between tasks, but they’re not why I was there.

Such an (extra)ordinary little thing will mean a lot more to so many others.

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