I love watching our volunteers interact with the folks who come for services. It’s like old friends catching up and checking in on each other. There are many who come through food bank every week, as much for the social engagement as for the food. Often it is during these brief conversations that people will share a life event or a greater need. The food bank volunteers will quietly connect with our Samaritan volunteers to be sure they are aware.
“Sally” has visited the food bank every week for several years. She is usually one of the last people in our day. Her head is always down and hood up. As volunteers try to engage, she shyly smiles and says, “thank you.” Her personal hygiene is not great, with dirty clothes and maybe days or weeks since a shower. Still, kindness and compassion is shared. There is weekly encouragement from food bank volunteers to talk with our case managers to see how they might help. The day finally came that she was ready!
Sally sat down with our amazing case managers to share her story. Her home is not what we likely envision. She lives in a place without shower or laundry. There is just a spigot for water. She wears her hood up because her hair is so matted she cannot comb it. She is embarrassed and has little self-esteem. Through the love and compassion of our staff and volunteers she agrees to set up shower and laundry at POM and starts coming each week. She finally gets the courage to say, “I’d really like a haircut.”
This is where the grace and generosity of our community is truly overwhelming and we could not possibly have planned the outcome. There are several salons near POM and all are very generous to us. This visit, however, would require understanding and compassion for someone who is really hurting. We set up the appointment and after the visit, POM was Sally’s first stop. She was so excited and just beamed at her new haircut, her new look. We had not seen that confidence before. She looked amazing and was so grateful!
I went across the street to pay the salon for the visit. The owner said she had a coupon that was donated for exactly this—to help a neighbor in need. The donor of that coupon was a long-time volunteer at Plateau Outreach Ministries who suddenly passed away last year. The owner said, “This haircut is on Mary Lou.” This gift brought on a cascade of emotions. Gratitude to the salon owner. Pride in Sally for taking a difficult step. Disbelief that this gift showed up months after Mary Lou left us.
We are thankful to all who are part of the POM story. Every gift can make an incredible difference in the life of someone in need. One gift leads to another and the ripple begins.