The following article was submitted by Miriam. I feel her disappointment. I also wonder what the solutions are, when it comes to institutional giving? It may be that brothers and sisters in Christ would do better on their own, giving out of their own homes. Frustration is high with me over this issue and certainly high with Miriam; but our hearts break for those in need of food and shelter, for those in need of a warm coat, or even just a loving hand to hold. Thank you Miriam, for this very poignant post in today's world, where giving is largely misunderstood among Christians and non-Christians alike.
This is an ongoing saga of the Church Charities food pantry in our location. Our local food pantry requires two forms of identification and registration whenever one goes to get food. Each time you go there (one visit per month maximum), you must be interviewed, your answers checked against their computer database, and then you may choose from pre-selected food items. Okay, not so bad. But then last month, the food pantries were all closed for one day due to "meetings." A couple weeks ago, my pal Shirley and I went to get some food and discovered that a new policy had been instituted. Although it was not posted ANYWHERE, they decided they would not give food to any individual unless they brought in a current piece of mail so as to verify their address. We managed to pass the postal test (thank God I never clean out my purse!), but watched in HORROR as people with children were turned away, people who had walked in the heat just to get some food to feed their families.
Let me pause here to tell you the kind of food you can expect to get at this food pantry: a few canned goods, possibly cereal of some kind, any assortment of sodas and candy, sometimes meat/fish, stale bread/pastries, and sometimes a dairy item, usually string cheese for some reason. There is also a sort of food roulette; they package these items for you and then you go home and unpack them. Always make sure you check the expiration date! I have gotten meat that is 3 YEARS past expiration. The last time I made potato salad, I just happened to look at the jar of mayonnaise, and it had expired in June. June Of LAST year. These "free" food items are mostly collected from people around the area once per season (put your non-perishable food items out on Saturday, and the post office will pick them up), or from chain grocery stores looking to get a tax write-off, since our Church Charity is a 501c3 official NON profit organization.
Oh, one more thing you should know. The headquarters here, a nice modern building with shiny offices and new equipment, was undergoing "renovation" for a few months earlier this year. They are done now. The building has literally DOUBLED in size (and it was big to begin with). They have very nice, soothing-to-the-lawnazi landscaping, a very beautiful facility.
Okay, back to food. So all these people are getting turned away and Shirley and I are getting more upset. Finally they call me in for my "interview" and I say, "What's with this postal policy? No one knew about this and why are you doing this?" The woman drily tells me that it is "policy." (Repeating a phrase does not explain it, toots!) And she says it has been in effect for a month (a lie). She said they need to do it to verify people's addresses. (All those forms of ID don't count?) So I said, "In other words, if a person with no place to live comes in here and asks for food, you will deny them?" The woman is now pissed. She looks at me and says "Of course not. We would REGISTER THAT PERSON WITH THE APPROPRIATE AGENCIES SO THEY COULD GET HELP." I said, "What if all they wanted was to eat food?" She then listed the various agencies that would work in conjunction with them to help the person, again, ignoring what I just asked her. After that, she asked me what church I was affiliated with and I gave her my standard answer: I am freelance Christian.
Now Shirley and I have passed the first hurdles. Shirley finishes first, and the man that is leading me through the food aisle sees that the plastic bags he is putting the cans in will not hold them well. As he wisely reaches to double bag for me, he gets yelled out for WASTING BAGS.
So now we are both mad and we sputter and spit about this all the way home. Shirley has a friend who does counseling for a Church Charity. She calls him up to tell him what just happened. He tops her story by telling her that he went out of his way to take two of his clients to the food pantry, and THEY were turned away for no postal verification. And this guy works there!!!
So they have their staff meeting, and now HE is pissed, but he is in a position to do something about it. So he raises the issue and then says "Look at our name. We are a Church Charity. We are not being charitable, and we are certainly not being true to His word." He makes an eloquent speech. The others at the table give him a dismissive look, and then the person running the meeting says, "Okay, now that we are done with THAT... let's move on."
Now, lest you think it is only THEM....
I was recently directed to the county Council of Churches, because I heard they had a program that would offer medical transportation to those in need. I called them last MAY. The person on the phone took a TON of information from me: SS# and on and on. Then she said someone would contact me to proceed further. Over the course of the next two months, I got a call from an anonymous woman who says she is from this council and tells me she will call me back. She leaves neither her name nor her phone number and of course, her number does not show up on my phone. Finally, I call back from the original number, tell them what happened, and ask what I should do. They say "Are you one of our clients?" To which I truthfully respond, I don't know. A second phone call reveals that yes, I am in in their database, but that this mystery person will have to contact me again. I say I don't keep my phone strapped to my body, so if she misses me, please give me a contact number. I am told they NEVER give out their volunteer’s names or phone numbers. I'm like "what?" Then she tells me this unknown person will have to come to my HOME to interview me.
That night, the mystery lady calls me, and we set up an appointment. I tell her I have animals, and so I would prefer we do this interview on the porch. In truth, my critters are sweet and gentle, but I'm not letting anyone I don't know into my home. She says fine, no problem. The next day, she calls me back to say she has been instructed that she must come INSIDE my home. The temps are pushing 95 degrees INSIDE when we speak. I tell her not until the temps get cooler, cuz my pets are tense. Truthfully, it's ME that is tense. She says okay, just call and reschedule when I am "ready." I think about this all night and fret. All I am asking for is what they claim they provide: transportation to a doctor. I can "prove" that I am poor. Do they think I am hiding a shiny Mercedes in my living room?
This morning I decide this is not worth it. My PTSD is aggravated. I call them up and calmly ask them to take me off their list, and explain that this process has aggravated my situation. I do this in one sentence. Calmly. Their cheerful response? "Okay. No problem. Thanks for calling." Click.
A final note: I know someone who runs a drug/alcohol rehab facility here; it is HUGE. She says there is a lot of money to made on poor people. She speaks from experience. She lives in a big house and recently bought her kid an Audi.