Volunteers from our Junior League were greeted by 600-plus families early Saturday, September 8, outside of the Community Harvest Food Bank. Standing in lines that circled the building, the families — some who had been waiting since the wee hours of the morning — were there for the food bank’s Saturday Helping Hands Food Distribution.
As part of a regular Super Saturday/Done in a Day community service event, our Junior League of Fort Wayne volunteers (including five potential new members) were happy to lend a hand, distributing fresh produce, dairy, baked goods and other food items to the many, many families in need.
The work was hard, but definitely rewarding.
So rewarding that one of our members, Mary Lou Brink, blogged about it for moms.fortwayne.com. We loved her beautifully written post so much that we’re sharing it, in its entirety (with permission of course), right here.
Please take a moment to read it. Really take it in. We hope it motivates you and inspires you, as we kick off another amazing Junior League year …
White Gloves for Work Gloves
Posted by Mary Lou Brink for moms.fortwanye.com on Sep 11, 12 at 2:05 pm
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi.
I thought this quote very apropos after volunteering Saturday at Community Harvest Food Bank. My khaki pants and red Junior League of Fort Wayne T-shirt were covered in purple plum juice, sticky soda pop spray and overall grime from shuffling around wooden produce pallets. But I could not care less.
When volunteering, you tend to get caught up so much in what you are doing that nothing else really matters. Seeing the appreciative faces of almost everyone who came through the food bank that day, putting their pride aside and standing in line with hundreds of others like them, just to feed their families or help make ends meet, made it all worthwhile. I even overheard one little girl say, “This was worth the wait, mom.” Talk about something you’ll never forget!
We all fall victim to complacency at one time or another. It happens. It is very easy to get caught up in our careers, nice cars and homes, kids’ soccer tournaments and the like that we forget or often don’t have time to pay attention to the needs of those less fortunate —people who also happen to be our neighbors.
That’s why I think local service and volunteer organizations are so great. With many hands, the load becomes lighter. Sure, organized volunteerism also can be a social club and a way to network professionally, but a lot of lasting good is done by volunteers in this community – such as Leadership Fort Wayne, Junior League, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and so on. My dad belonged to the Columbus (Ohio) Kiwanis club, so I grew up learning about “giving back” to my community through volunteerism. I guess that’s why it makes sense I am now a proud member of the women’s organization Junior League of Fort Wayne.
People who don’t know about JLFW may have the wrong impression of the organization that’s been in Fort Wayne for 71 years. This isn’t your mother’s or grandmother’s Junior League any more. The days of playing bridge while sipping martinis and wearing white gloves and pearls are gone. Now are the days of jeans, T-shirts and work gloves to do community service. But one cornerstone of JL hasn’t changed: The good JLFW, and organizations like it, do for our community. Most people don’t realize that from 1980 to 1983 the JLFW provided financial and volunteer aid to get the McMillen Center for Health off the ground. In 1989, JLFW started Erin’s House for Grieving Children. In 1990 to 1993, JLFW furnished and stocked the Boys and Girls Club Library, and in 1992 helped found Super Shot after realizing there was critical need for immunizations of children in Allen County. Some current projects, with the continuing goal of building a better future for women and children, include the Women’s Independence Project and Kids in the Kitchen.
Members of service organizations today have less time, between full-time jobs and families, but no less passion than they did when founded. And why not incorporate family time into volunteering in the community, even if not part of an official service organization? Every parent should expose his or her child, starting at a fairly young age, to volunteering in the community in some way, shape or form. I don’t care if it’s the local food bank, rescue mission, neighborhood clean-up project or area animal shelter. It teaches them compassion for others, appreciation for what they have, and opens their minds to other worldviews and cultures. It’s never too soon to learn these things.
I know, I know, kids are now required to have a certain number of community service hours before they can graduate high school. But it’s just not the same when it’s a requirement. They should be doing it because they grew up knowing community service is the right thing to do, and the least they can do to give back to such a great community.
I see way too many families today that live in their own little world bubbles — if something isn’t happening directly to them or affecting how their world operates then it isn’t on their radar. What a waste and a shame.
Arguably, I know I sound like a self-righteous do-gooder. And I doubt there is anyone out there who would disagree that volunteering, giving back, paying it forward, whatever you chose to call it, is a much-needed thing. But, herein lies the rub: People see an act of kindness on the nightly news and say “awwww, isn’t that nice.” But what about actually DOING it? To me, that means so much more than just agreeing it’s a good idea. It’s the ole “as long as somebody else does it, I think it’s a great idea.” Those people have it all backward. What if everyone were to “get involved”? What would that world look like?
After all, Arthur Ashe said it best: “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”
Junior League of Fort Wayne members work side by side, serving their community, attending social events, building new skills and lasting friendships. Interested in joining? New members are welcomed year round. For more information, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (260) 387-5592.