If you need something and I’ve got it, I’ll share what I’ve got. That’s the way I’ve always felt. I believe that, as Jesus Christ did, I should try to meet the needs of the people around me. That is what he did, after all. He met their immediate need, and then they listened to what he had to say. I will tell anyone who will listen about what Jesus has done for me in my life, and that is why I enjoy “giving back.”
I volunteer at the Bagwell Food Pantry in Rome, Georgia, a part of Action Ministries Rome, because I enjoy giving back to the community. The blessing that I get from seeing the people I help, it thrills me. Being able to share what I have and what I know brings a fulfillment that’s almost indescribable, and that’s why the pantry is here. You can’t reach people for Christ when their stomachs are growling. If I had more to give, I would give that too, but as it turns out, I’ve found myself in a place where I need help at this point in my life.
I need help buying groceries, because the Social Security payments my husband and I receive aren’t quite enough. I’ve needed help paying for my husband’s prescriptions since he had open-heart surgery in 2012. I need help, because this same husband of mine is one of the many people who have fallen into the dreaded Medicare “donut hole.” If we hadn’t gotten help from ADAP and the pharmaceutical companies, I don’t know where he’d be right now. If it wasn’t for the co-op program at the Bagwell Food Pantry, I’m not sure how we’d be eating right now. We’ll talk about that in a minute, though.
This isn’t the first time I’ve needed some help. I guess we all need help in different ways from time to time. But since I was forced into an early retirement because of health problems, I’ve had to struggle to make do with the Social Security checks I receive each month. My lungs collapsed back when I was still in the nursing field, and because nursing is such a physically demanding job, I had to retire before I wanted to.
That was back when my husband and I lived in Florida, and we found a way to make it work. While I was retired, my husband was still working, but in the six months immediately following my retirement, before my Social Security kicked in, his income wasn’t quite enough to support both of us. So I felt an inspiration from the Lord and started writing poetry, something which had always been a passion of mine. I handed the poems out to people, sharing with them the message of Christ, and every once in a while, I would get a donation in return. This was enough to at least keep gas in my husband’s car so that he could get to work, and that got us through those six months. Even after I started receiving my Social Security checks, though, we still didn’t have the money we needed to keep food on the table, and I still wanted to give. I still wanted to touch people’s lives.
So, we found a way to help others. I volunteered at a food pantry in Florida, and after some time working there, I found myself in charge of the whole operation in the wake of the previous director leaving his post.
We had a pretty good thing going with that food pantry. I was able to buy bulk food at a discounted price and get the people we served more bang for their buck. After the state shut us down, though, we had to start giving it away for free. We found a way to make that happen, and if it weren’t for the help of a dear friend, I’m not sure if we would’ve been able to. The pantry was in the red before I took over, and I’ve never been one to deal well with numbers. My friend, though, she handled that, and so we survived, and we found a way to help those around us.
When our family members down there passed away, we moved back to Georgia to be with some other family, but that didn’t change our financial situation. We still needed help, and I still wanted to help. That’s where Action Ministries Rome and the co-op program it sponsors at the Bagwell Food Pantry come in.
You see, the co-op program is pretty unique, and it’s a perfect fit for someone like me. I pay six dollars a month to be a part of the co-op, and I volunteer my time twice a month answering phone calls at the pantry and participating in staff meetings. My husband helps too, now that he is also retired. He helps stock the shelves and bag up the food for people to take home. The pantry even has a little garden out back where we grow produce to give away. We love helping out at the pantry, and in return, we get to bring home enough groceries to live our lives.
We find a way to help and trust that the Lord will help us in return. So far, it’s worked pretty well. This way, everyone gets help, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is our way. This is the Christian way, and this is the way of Action Ministries Rome.
-As told to Andrew West, Student Writer
This story originally appeared in Facing Hope, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and Berry College in Rome, Georgia.