By Sarah Keyston
I just returned from serving lunch at Glide Memorial in San Francisco with three others on the UniversalGiving team, including our founder and CEO Pamela Hawley, as well as some members of other foundations in our office community. And I have to tell you, it was a truly humbling experience. We walked over from our office to begin our shift at 11:30am, and when we arrived, there was already a line of people waiting to eat. We donned hairnets, aprons, and gloves—and took a few funny pictures!—in preparation for food service.
My job was scooping white beans into one of the spots on the tray. Though the compartmentalized trays reminded me of my plates when I was five years old, the divisions were certainly helpful in our speedy assembly of hundreds of meals. The meal today was a fish and pasta stew with white beans, juicy strawberries, and garlic bread. Definitely a hearty meal, though one adorable man (shorter than I am, and missing a few teeth) came back for a TENTH helping. We volunteers were absolutely blown away by the amount of food that he put away, although it was probably his only chance to eat that day.
Robert, a seasoned member of the Glide team, informed us that the 500-some meals that we served between 12 and 1:30pm comprised a slow day for the kitchen, which often feeds over 1000 people in a single meal. Glide serves three meals a day, 364 days a year (their only day off being New Year’s Day) to many grateful individuals. While some there were quiet and seemingly melancholy, one particularly jolly man asked if we were “forced to work” at Glide, to which we replied that we were merely volunteering. He replied, “Volunteering? Well God bless you then!” I smiled—it is hard to top the feeling of warmth and fulfillment that I get from helping others.
Characters come through the door from all walks of life: homeless, struggling with substance abuse, unemployed. Robert pointed out four people who owned their own homes but could not afford to eat—and even more of a shock to me—five with college degrees. In these tough economic times, an even larger variety of people are suffering from hunger.
Though we often promote international giving opportunities as that is the nature of UniversalGiving, it is always important to remember our local communities. Something like serving meals at a local shelter or church is so easy to do, yet such a small gesture as sacrificing my own lunch break goes a long way in terms of showing compassion towards some very appreciative and hungry San Franciscans.