This Saturday was a busy, volunteer-y day. First, our scout troop helped out in the morning with our town’s cleanup day – picking up trash, planting, mulching, etc. Then, when that was over, it was pick up day for Scouting for Food.
Every year, we spend one Saturday distributing bags all over town and then the next Saturday we spend the day picking up donations, sorting, boxing and delivering them to the local food bank. It is these kinds of scouting activities that keep me involved despite my absolute hatred for some of the policies of the organization. There isn’t a whole lot of organized giving-a-shit around these parts lately, so any time we can do good, it’s worth it.
Sometimes it’s hard not to get a little jaded when it comes to this kind of think, though. The folks that run the food bank out of a local church basement are kind of assholes. You’ve met the type – older folks who get their jollies by being big, obnoxious control freaks. Late year, we spent hours in the heat, collecting and sorting and packing thousands of pound of food. When we were all set, it turned out that the food bank decided to be an asshole. They were under the impression that they were doing us a favor. And so even though we have been doing this for approximately 20 years they decided that they could not possibly accommodate us for dropping off (and carrying in and stacking) the food. We had to do it while the food bank was open. But the food bank was only open from about 9-4 on weekdays. Exactly when all the boys were in school and t\all the leaders and parents were at work. We tried to explain this, but they wouldn’t budge. Not one single one of those old harpies would come in for less than an hour on a Saturday to receive huge donations of food to help the needy and fill their almost empty shelves. Not. One.
We kept trying to work something out, but they were adamant. OK, then. We still had a ton of food and we still wanted to help the needy, so we called the local salvation army food bank, which serves the entire surrounding area, in addition to our town. They were thrilled and immediately agreed to be available for the drop-off. All was well.
Until, that is, the food bank called a few days later demanding, “Where is our food?!” the leader explained to them that since they refused to accept the donation on anything but their strict hours, we were forced to donate the food elsewhere. Then the shit hit the fan. Someone from the food bank wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper accusing the scouts of stealing food out of the mouths of the local hungry. This couldn’t have been further from the truth and a rebuttal was sent by the leader, but it still got out there. It sucked.
This year, the leader spoke with the food bank and they gave him a little bit of a hard time about being available, but he reminded them about whet happened last year and they got a little more flexible. They still managed to keep us waiting in the alley in the heat just to make sure we know who’s boss, of course.
But sadly, this year, the donations were low. We passed many houses where people had left their bags still hanging from mailboxes, fencepost, etc. The donation we did get were smaller. It was sad, because it’s a vicious cycle – worse economy = more need, but it also means that more people are less able to give and fill that need. We definitely had less when we got back to the sorting location. And then, we had to weed out a lot of expired stuff, which shrunk the donation a little more.
I think the thing that pissed me off the most was that the large majority of the donations came from the poorest parts of town. There were people who saw us and ran in and filled up a bag, because hey missed theirs, etc, and clearly, they could ill afford it. But next, we headed to the most affluent part of town, expecting a haul. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Only a coupe of houses in a large neighborhood had donations out. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but in an entire development filled with in-ground pools and huge houses with Mercedes and BMW in the 3 car garages, you would expect more than just a few bags.
One lady saw us and apparently when her bag was labeled with the date, someone made a mistake and had Sunday’s date on it. She said to folks collecting, “This bag says Sunday.” They apologized for the mistake and told her that it should have had that day’s date on it. The she looked them right in the eye and snapped, “Well TOO BAD! It says tomorrow so I will put out my donation TOMORROW!!”
It disgusts me that so many people are too busy being superior, or controlling, or downright crazy that something important gets passed over. They don’t seem to realize that it’s not the Boy Scouts that they are punishing with their attitude, it’s the hungry and needy. And it pisses me off.
Helping others mean nothing if you completely miss the “others” part.