If you visit the Casa de Barro food pantry on a typical Saturday, you can’t help but be amazed by how well it runs. It’s like clockwork: more than 300 families rapidly move through the church, each one receiving 2-3 bags of fresh groceries, all in the course of just a couple hours. A small but mighty army of about 20 volunteers is at the heart of the action – setting up, helping participants, restocking items and ensuring all runs smoothly.
One of the largest pantries in the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank network, Casa de Barro takes on a new rhythm when Thanksgiving rolls around. The pace is a bit slower, the smiles are wider, the hugs last longer. Although participants and volunteers chat and check in with each other every week, the feelings of caring and community reach a giddy peak during the holiday season.
“When Thanksgiving is coming, people make a point to say ‘thanks’ out loud and a lot more often,” said Mayella, who lives nearby with her family and has volunteered at the pantry for eight years. “People make an extra effort to show they care, and we feel more connected. Even though I volunteer every week, at the holidays I think even more about how important and rewarding it is to help each other.”
For many participants, the whole chicken they receive from the Food Bank for Thanksgiving is the centerpiece of their holiday meal. Margarita, who visits Casa de Barro pantry with her young son most Saturdays, said, “Getting food here helps a lot. It makes our holiday much better. My family has something wonderful to eat, and we celebrate that. In addition to the chicken, we prepare our favorite foods like posole and tamales.”
Longtime volunteer Vicky appreciates the acts of kindness that proliferate during the season: “People do many, small things to show their thanks – they will bring notes for the volunteers or small candies to share. They are so grateful for what they receive and they want to give something, whatever they can, to the volunteers to say ‘thank you.’
“The Saturday before Thanksgiving, there is a lot of excitement,” Vicky added. “People are so happy to get food for their big meal, and they are looking forward to celebrating. They dress up when they are coming to the pantry and you can see everyone’s face is full of joy.”