In a world of diverse cultures, religions, ages, genders and more, there are a few things that unite us all. The satisfaction of basic needs, like water, food, shelter, and love, leads to feeling fulfilled while the lack of these things leads people to various degrees of unrest. Only those who have experienced the pain of not knowing where they might sleep at night or where their next meal might come from can truly appreciate the immensity of a friendly smile or a warm meal on their table.
St. Mary’s Food Bank has been helping ease anxiety since 1967. As the first food bank in the United States, St. Mary’s has inspired the creation of thousands of other food banks across the country and the world. St. Mary’s distributes food to nearly 700 nonprofit partners. These agencies include food pantries, dining halls, homeless shelters and more. Volunteer Engagement Manager Jennifer Gonzales says that “St. Mary’s is a charity that helps other charities.” All of the biggest names in Arizona food and grocery donate to St. Mary’s, including Albertson’s, Basha’s and Safeway, and St. Mary’s turns those donations into boxed meals, satisfying the need for sustenance in thousands of hungry people.
The blessings of the food bank would not exist without the help of hundreds of volunteers. On any given day, the organization needs upwards of 75 people to help pack the food into boxes and another 80 volunteers to distribute the boxes to the various recipients. During the holiday season, a good meal enjoyed in the company of loved ones is a staple in most people’s traditions. On the other hand, the absence of these things can be a harsh reminder of the setbacks in one’s life. With food playing such an important role in holiday celebration, the need for volunteers at this time of year is critical. St. Mary’s volunteers help lighten the load, preparing and distributing a full Thanksgiving feast for their patrons every November. With more and more people in need, the call for helping hands is louder than ever. The employees of the food bank promise a fun time for all volunteers, along with the opportunity to see the smile on the face of someone who knows where their next meal is coming from.
The holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on the blessings that have been granted to us and find ways to share those blessings with our neighbors in need. Volunteers at St. Mary’s will get a special compensation for their labors, as we read in the Book of Mormon. If we will be “always abounding in good works, [we] may have everlasting salvation and eternal life.” This holiday season, the opportunity to “abound in good works” is right in front of us, at a food bank named for the mother of the Savior, who is the reason for everything we celebrate this glorious season.
For a full list of locations and volunteer opportunities, please visit volunteer.firstfoodbank.org.