Finding My Place

One of the most painful processes associated with a new move is finding a the place where you "fit" in the new community. And in our case, after volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for many years and spending the last three years serving with Feed Forsyth, we knew a big struggle would be finding a nonprofit to serve. I mean you cannot just work furiously for three years addressing struggling families and then go to nothing, right? So once I could access my own deodorant and there was a clear path through the living room to the front door, we began the search for a new church home and a nonprofit that aligned with my passion.

The second church we visited was Pinellas Community Church. We parked in the parking spots labelled "First Time Guests" and started walking down the sidewalk following the signs to the auditorium when I was stopped dead in my tracks. I casually glanced to my right and was speechless. There was a building with a huge sign on the front of it, "Feed St. Pete". I could not speak for a minute. To suddenly see a food pantry named so closely to the nonprofit we had founded was overwhelming. I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. Wow. I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture and posted it to Facebook. Within minutes, friends in Atlanta saw it and started posting comments like "they are going to be so glad you are there".

Feed St. Pete - the image that stopped me in my tracks (credit: The Author)
Once seated in the service, I quickly found how to contact their staff for volunteering and sent an email saying I was interested in serving with the food pantry. On Tuesday morning, I received an email saying to arrive at the pantry ready to work at 4 PM that afternoon.

When I arrived at 4 PM that afternoon, I saw a sign that said they distribute food at 5 PM, and there was about 20 or 30 people sitting under the shade of the trees waiting for the food distribution. I knocked on the door of the pantry, and when the door opened, I told them I was there to volunteer.

The person I met said, "OK, come back at 5."

So, I said, "cool", and headed back to sit in my vehicle and surf the internet on my phone in some air conditioning.

When I got to my vehicle I looked up and saw three men talking and walking down the sidewalk from the church office towards me. I recognized the pastor from Sunday. He looked up at me and introduced himself and shook my hand. He asked what I was up to, and I told him I had come to volunteer with the pantry and had been told to come back at 5pm. We started up a conversation, and he invited me into the office. We chatted for 30 or 45 minutes, and he seemed to be stunned when he learned I had been managing a food rescue organization. We walked back over to the pantry, and he introduced me to a couple of the volunteers and mentioned my work at Feed Forsyth. To say that I was warmly welcomed would be a huge understatement. 

By 7 PM, we had given out food to over 120 families. I was impressed with how many families they had served, how they were managing the food distribution, and how friendly everyone was to me and how welcomed they made me feel. In the midst of things, I was introduced to the pantry manager and had a brief conversation on how they wanted to expand what they are doing and how I might help. To date, I have been volunteering with them for seven weeks. Together we are working on plans to increase the amount of food they have available to provide the families, how many families they serve, but also providing services from business professionals like resume writing assistance, job search/placement, counseling, etc. The vision they have is exciting, and I am glad to be a small part of how they are serving the community around them.

While a lot of other things have not been completely settled in this transition. Finding my place with a local nonprofit that shares my passion for struggling families has made this feel like home really fast, and for that I am very grateful.


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