As a vegetarian, laying bags’ worth of raw chicken legs on giant cookie sheets was not my idea of a fun Thursday morning activity. Pulling on the plastic gloves and apron, though, I tried to shove that thought aside and focus on the task at hand. Fellow Food Bank employees Traci, Joe, Tim and I were taking the morning to volunteer at City Rescue Mission in order to get a better look at the impact the Regional Food Bank’s partner agencies have on real people’s lives. And for us, that started in the kitchen, prepping chicken for dinner.
City Rescue Mission, at its most basic, is a homeless shelter, providing warm beds and three square meals a day to some of Oklahoma City’s neediest people—almost 400 people a day last year. Their goal, though, is to help people turn their lives around. Residents have the option to enroll in the Bridge to Life program where they get anger management counseling, addiction treatment and support finding a job, housing or going back to school. People in this program can stay up to two years, as long as they are working toward those goals.
City Rescue Mission partners with approximately 30 outside agencies, bringing everything from literacy classes to dental extractions under one roof for easy access. Additionally, they are partnering with the Regional Food Bank to build a Food Resource Center, which will be a best-practice food pantry that could distribute millions of pounds of food annually. The hope is that this new mode of intervention will help prevent homelessness in the first place; giving people the means to safely ride out bad days and hard times that otherwise might have turned them out on the streets.
Abby, one of City Rescue Mission’s few employees, is a bubbly, energetic woman who tutors resident children, among other things. Nice enough to conduct a tour for us, she gave us some insight into her experiences working at City Rescue Mission. Her obvious affection for their clients came through when she told us with a smile, “Don’t even think about feeling sorry for these women. They have sass.” Though residents obviously face an uphill battle, Abby was quick to talk about her favorite success stories. She teared up as she told us about visiting a family who had recently moved out of the Mission into a real home, with a yard and a living room. She also mentioned a woman who was living at City Rescue Mission as she finished up studying to be a pastry chef. As we walked, residents were diligently repairing some flooring; others were sweeping stairs.
And that’s why I was happy to be there, slimy raw chicken and all. Because prepping a dinner that could be a person’s only food for the day, or that gives people the energy they need to turn their lives around, is an honor. And as we moved into the cafeteria, taking trays from women after their meal, their faces—so many different races, different ages, different backgrounds—reminded me why the Regional Food Bank’s work is so important. Hunger can affect anyone. Heading back to the office, I was grateful for my renewed sense of perspective. Getting a chance to see the Regional Food Bank’s resources in action brought the meaning of “Fighting Hunger…Feeding Hope” to life.
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
Childhood Hunger Programs Coordinator