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Volunteering for a Food Distribution Center: A Reflection of Gratitude

When I wake up each day, I complete my morning routine, ride my bike to my placement site, and begin to volunteer. I then return home, speak with my family on the phone, spend time with my community, and enjoy dinner.

Not once does the thought of not having food cross my mind.

Maybe your routine sounds similar, and you also fail to realize how fortunate many of us are to have food without a second thought.

For some, their day starts with the worry of where their family’s next meal is going to come from or if they are going to have food at all.

With this struggle, there is a necessity for food banks and charities to help distribute food to those in need.

One local charity that contributes to this issue is the Catholic Charities of Orange County. Their Cantlay Food Distribution Center serves over 700 people a day during their three days of food distribution from 7:30 am – 12:00 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

I had the chance, during my orientation of the St. Joseph Worker Program, to volunteer there for two days.

When I arrived for the first time, I felt extremely welcomed.

Upbeat music was playing on the radio in the warehouse, staff members were smiling, saying hello, and immediately sharing their gratitude towards us for wanting to volunteer.

Once I began my volunteer shift, I was amazed by the quick assembly line. Each volunteer was in a designated location to help place together a food bag that would be distributed to individuals and families.

Myself, Sister Louise, Sister Joanna, and my fellow St. Joseph Worker, Belle, were all excited to begin participating in food distribution.

My task was at the end of the assembly line. I helped place a bag of fruit into each of the three food bags that were in a grocery cart. I then would help push the grocery cart outside as families and individuals were sitting in their cars in a line eagerly waiting for a donation.

While each of us diligently worked on our separate tasks given, Sister Louise helped with distributing the squash and zucchini, Sister Joanna placed watermelons onto the grocery cart, and Belle placed three lemons into each of the food bags, we would glance at one another and share a smile.

As we quickly worked together to prepare the food bags, I felt appreciative.

I imagined the excitement that a family must feel the moment that they return home and look inside their food bag. They are provided with vegetables, fruits, canned goods, eggs, and so many more necessities that they were missing before.

Stopping by the grocery store for ingredients can feel mundane at times. But for those in need, it is a blessing that they often dream of.

My volunteer experience at the food distribution center truly made me reflect on how blessed I am to have access to food every day. A snack that I often grab at the moment I become hungry means a lot more than I ever realized.

As a St. Joseph Worker, I have learned that simplicity leads to gratitude of the heart. I have learned that you must appreciate everything in life.

What seemed small to me, like having food to cook, is a major blessing to more people than we know.

I encourage you to volunteer for the Cantlay Food Distribution Center and to donate your time towards those in need. I hope that your experience brings you gratitude the way that it did for me.

-Katelyn Dewberry, St. Joseph Worker, 2023/24


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