Enlightening and Inspiring...
"Here!?!?!? How can we have anyone with food insecurity HERE?!?!" or "How can someone facing food insecurity AFFORD to live anywhere near here?!?!?" This was the most common reaction to the news that Alex and I were beginning to volunteer at Hope's Corner in downtown Mountain View. We took the time to share the reality of food insecurity with everyone who would listen. We have worked only a few times in the last year and a half, but the effort and meaning behind Hope's Corner is always going to be with us.
Our family found out about Hope's Corner through our son's middle school. West Valley Middle requires 21 hours of community service each year from every student, and we've been grateful, as the requirement has pushed us to explore volunteering beyond school boundaries. From our first visit to Hope's Corner, Alex and I felt like we were providing direct help to the clients, and also to the enormous task of operating such a complex and important program. No one's help goes to waste - everyone who volunteers can feel useful, no matter what they are capable of physically. What seemed like controlled chaos on our first visit was only a reflection of my ignorance - I had no idea what it takes to produce safe and nourishing food and serve it to so many people. And it was SO MANY PEOPLE, so many food-insecure people in the heart of such a wealthy region.
We met some of the founders and volunteers of Hope's Corner and it is humbling to see how hard the whole team works to help the community. Every time someone volunteers at Hope's Corner, they, too, are being nourished. Each volunteer is gaining insight into their own life - their definitions of hard work, tough times, want, need... It IS hard for each volunteer to make the time to help out, and that effort is of great value to the clients and other volunteers.
I saw Alex shyly looking at the clients, trying to figure out their stories, and sometimes seeing people the same age as his treasured grandparents, or a child who could easily be a younger schoolmate, or a person who is ill and has no one else. I saw him see those in need as fellow humans who needed HIM, and he felt really good being able to help them. We have had so many good conversations because of Hope's Corner. I also saw Alex become more and more determined to do good work for Hope's Corner, to help more and work harder. Alex said "working there makes me appreciate helping other people more and it is nice to help homeless people because they don't always get enough food."
When we saw that our van and strong arms could be of good use in transporting equipment back to Los Altos Methodist and washing up, we both wanted to do it. Seeing the dreams for the kitchen remodels at Trinity Methodist Church as shiny silver steel realities in the Los Altos Methodist Church kitchen showed Alex what is possible when you dream big and plan well and inspire others to join in. In our talks with Marissa and others, we grew in our understanding of the power that people joining together can generate. We have already looked for and found volunteering opportunities in our new town, and we don't care if the schools there require hours. Alex wants to keep doing this type of work "because it helps my community" and he especially enjoyed serving food and running the fancy industrial dishwasher. Thanks to Hope's Corner, one of us has renewed her volunteering spirit and the other has found his.
Our last visit to the corner of Hope and Mercy streets is coming in early May, and we're both sorry to have to say goodbye. We will be keeping our eye on the projects as the program continues to grow and cheer everyone on. When people work together, we really can move mountains.
Susan and Alex Dole, April 2017