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Last week we had the pleasure of spending the day at the WESH studios for Giving Tuesday. The generous folks at WESH decided to hold an all-day telethon to raise funds for Second Harvest Food Bank. I spent my day doing on camera interviews, answering phones and taking down donation information from generous neighbors and collecting the slips so we could keep track of the money coming in.
Around 1 pm, WESH reporter, Amanda Ober, answered the phone cheerfully “WESH 2 Share Your Christmas Telethon!” as she did about 20 times before. She then called over to me saying, “Sasha, this call is for you”. I was thinking it was a kind family member that wanted to make a donation and say some sweet things about seeing me on TV. Instead, I was surprised to meet Barbara.
Barbara quickly told me that I didn’t know her but she had been watching me on TV. She finally gained the courage to pick up the phone and make this call. She let me know that she is 80 years old and living alone in Winter Park. She just got over pneumonia and was feeling very weak. Bottom line…she was hungry, with nothing in her pantry and no car or family to get her to food.
She had just spent the little savings she had on hospital bills and medication. She explained that she lived a mile from the closest bus stop and she couldn’t make it to one our local agencies to get food. As she cried on the phone, I cried with her. My heart broke as she said that it felt like the community has given up on her. I assured her that we will help her as soon as possible.
In that moment, a rush of emotion came flooding in. I work in fundraising and marketing for the Food Bank. I am usually a few steps removed from the people who need our help. But here I was, on the phone in a middle of a room of joy and holiday cheer, crying with someone who called to speak to me specifically and ask for help. I knew we couldn’t give up on her.
After taking down her contact information, I quickly got to work. I called Evelyn, our fantastic Agency Receptionist, at Second Harvest to get a list of agencies in Barbara’s zip code. Together we figured out which ones could deliver straight to her door. She transferred me to Stephen, one of our incredible Agency Relations Coordinators, who worked with the agencies that Evelyn just listed out for me. Once I told Stephen about Barbara, he immediately took charge.
Stephen was able to contact Spanish SDA, who delivered fresh produce, baked items and pantry staples to her front door the next day. He also spoke with All Saints Church and they agreed to deliver a big box of groceries to Barbara’s house each month. Finally, he got a hold of Jewish Family Services and they were able to schedule transportation through their RIDE Program so she could get necessary food and medication she needs.
That night I received the e-mail from Stephen reporting back all the amazing news on what he and our agencies were able to do to help Barbara. I felt happy that we could make good on our word to help her. I also felt safe. Hunger knows no age, sex, race, or religion. It could happen to any of us. I felt safe knowing that if I ever needed any help, that Second Harvest’s beautiful network of hard working agencies would be there to support me. Thank you to WESH, Evelyn, Stephen, All Saints Church, Spanish SDA, Jewish Family Services, and all of our tremendous donors who make this possible. Together, we made the holidays bright for Barbara and many others in our community.