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Growing up, our parents forced us to do the most dreadful of household chores. We cooked, cleaned, and above all, sobbed our hearts out; but that’s only because we were practically forced to perform those tasks. However, what if I told you that you could do those same exact duties, yet joyously and voluntarily? This might be a daunting thought at first, but hear me out:

Volunteering at the Houston Food Bank was honestly the best thing that ever happened to me, and here’s why.

In 2016, I joined an early college readiness program called Upward Bound. One of the perks of being apart of such an astounding organization was the numerous volunteer opportunities. My experience at the Houston Food Bank was a major eye-opener for me. Walking in, I couldn’t help but notice how welcoming the staff members were; their eyes burned with a desire that I knew all too well — the desire to help total and complete strangers. At first, I was slightly nervous but after being shown the ropes by many people, I eventually caught onto the procedures.

I was happily stationed at the senior box program, which was the area where the volunteers would construct cardboard boxes. Once built, these cardboard boxes were then filled with dozens of canned goods, pasta, cereal, and dairy products, all for the senior citizens. The amazing part about this whole ordeal was the fact that I was aiding many of the 11,000 seniors who couldn’t even afford to put food on their tables. This only made me think of my own grandmother and how she could’ve been one of those famished, sweet elderlies; I simply could not bear the thought of such torment.

As I taped those cardboard boxes together, I felt a sudden spark of gratefulness and gratitude stir inside of me. At that very moment, I became more present than I ever had been in my entire sixteen years of life. There was a reason why I came to the Houston Food Bank that day. No more was it about getting a gold star sticker or adding it to my list of “cool things I did in 2016.” It was about displaying selflessness and never taking anything in life for granted. I’ve realized that food is such a basic yet important commodity and if it were ever limited, then the world would be utterly alarmed. But looking back, those seniors were both limited and alarmed. They had no idea where their next meal would come from or how long they’d be waiting until social security finally returned their phone calls.

I went home that exact same day and opened my food pantry. Browsing around the preservatives, I smiled in thought. Before I was able to bag my groceries, a worker had long placed them on the shelves; and prior to that worker was the delivery people; and before that, came the factory workers and lastly, the farmers. This proves that we all lend a helping hand one way or another. I was just happy to be one out of 7.5 billion people who helped someone that day, and I’ll never forget it.

How to volunteer

In order to volunteer at the Houston Food Bank, you must first register for a volunteer shift on their website at https://www.houstonfoodbank.org/ways-to-give/give-time/volunteerwithhfb/

From there, you can choose which times and days work best for you. You are allowed to register 30 volunteers or more, however, make sure to adhere to all COVID-19 safety protocols.

Photo courtesy of Jo’Tavia Norbert

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