Three days of Hope

The Hope Center in Macomb County Michigan is a client choice food pantry that allows clients to shop aisles for free once a month for six months.
The Hope Center in Macomb County Michigan is a client choice food pantry that allows clients to shop aisles for free once a month for six months. | Source
Set up like a grocery store, the Hope Center has become the charity of choice for all Macomb County Miejer stores
Set up like a grocery store, the Hope Center has become the charity of choice for all Macomb County Miejer stores | Source

Ever since Pastor Chet Decker of Warren Woods Church of the Nazarene introduced the vision of a client choice food pantry for Macomb County, I wanted to be some kind of part of it. However, as a body structures designer for General Motors, a part time student, and full time dad of three young children, it is difficult to find time during the day to volunteer. So when I had a handful of vacation days available to me before GM shut down for Christmas break, I finally had my moment. Three days, actually. Not much at all compared to those who put in their time daily, but I wanted to make my brief time count.

I had the privilege of hosting clients in the reception area, greeting them as they entered the food pantry, checking them out at the scales, and, my favorite part, talking to people. And I found that their obvious needs were just as important to them as the needs we don’t always think about when we align ourselves with people who have fallen on hard times; dignity. So I tried to make it my mission that each person I encountered would feel dignified. It’s not advertised, and it’s not going to fill a kid’s stomach, but it is a great need for all those who walk through those doors.

A Typical Story

As I spoke with a young couple visiting for the first time, they listened intently to the instructions. It was difficult to not notice his expensive gold chain and her Coach purse. At first, I found myself standing in selfish judgment. Then I saw how the glimmer of jewelry contrasted with the lack of light in their eyes. They were embarrassed. They looked almost scared. As I spoke, their eyes darted around as if to survey the other clients. Maybe even they were wondering if they belonged.

They belonged. They belonged because they needed food and didn’t have the resources to buy enough food. That is the only basic requirement to be able to take advantage of The Hope Center. As I engaged them in more personal conversation, it was apparent that they were, like millions of Americans today, caught in a sudden and unfortunate situation. One day, everything was great. Then a job loss here, a rent payment missed there, and things spiral downward quickly.

This couple represented a large portion of the population of Macomb County; people whose finances might look good on paper, but whose current situation is dismal. These people are often turned down for other programs due to the newness of their plight. The records show they just don’t look that bad. Thank God that The Hope Center is there for this faction of Macomb County.

When we finished talking, the conversation had turned to hope, help, the love of Christ, and how they, as clients, are actually a blessing to us. You see, it was important to me to leave them with the reality that, if they don’t receive, it robs the giver of the blessing they are purposed to give. I believe the message got through. Seeing them throughout the remainder of their visit, they seemed less concerned about their place at The Hope Center, and more concerned about getting some great food. Reflecting on my first impression of this couple, it was clear that I got as much of an education from them as they got from me.

Some might picture serving at a food pantry as mundane or even kind of depressing. It was far from any of that. I spent my days there having a lot of fun. The people I served with were passionate about their work and the mood was contagious. I even brought my 8-year-old son for the last two days to stack cans, organize shelves, and pass gift bags out to the client’s children. My experience has left me with an eagerness to return. As a people person, the never-ending stream of new faces to talk to is reason enough to want to come back. Still, knowing how much The Hope Center is helping those in need is a praise that we all would see clearly, and would certainly draw back anyone who has the privilege to serve there.

Comments 4 comments

Mary Jo Duffy 5 years ago

Nick, what a wonderful article about a common experience that those of us who serve at The Hope Center experience. I have tried to explain the joy I feel when I am there to others, but it never seems to come close to how I actually feel. This article will hopefully inspire others to receive the blessings that those who volunteer there experience.


Nick Gerace 5 years ago from Warren MI Author

Thank you, Mary Jo! I want to return often. I really got a lot out of it. All of you at the Hope Center ROCK!


Terry McAuliffe 5 years ago

Nick,

Thanks for putting into words the exact feelings I have had since I began serving at Hope Center in June, 2010.

I had the honor of serving with you and your son for a shift during those three days! What an added joy! And, yes, your son "got me" with his "fire arms" joke .. what a great kid!

Thanks again for writing a great article.


Nick Gerace 5 years ago from Warren MI Author

No problem, Terry!! But just an FYI, my son was Dominic. The one with the fire arms joke was agnus trondle's son :)

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