Celidonia and her daughter Weng were first-time visitors to the food pantry last month. They were invited by one of the members of The House and were very grateful for the food they received. Cely lost her husband last year due to a sudden sickness and Weng took over as the main provider for her mom and her 14-year-old son. They are both very thankful for the generosity of the Valley Food Bank and its donors for their regular supply of food to the Food Distribution Ministry of The House Church, located in Reseda.
It does not take long for even a newcomer to realize that Calvary Baptist of Pacoima’s weekly food pantry boasts a special ambiance. This Thursday, some 80 people will walk into the U-shaped driveway of the Life Center that the church has designated as its pantry, eager not just for food, but also to see the volunteers that they have come to know. One of those volunteers is María.
The pantry has briskness to it, bustling with chatter. However, amidst all the activity, María always has a friendly word for everyone as they enter. María has volunteered at Calvary Baptist for three years as a greeter, which she greatly enjoys thanks to the bevy of people that she has met.
María does not ask where they have been, or how they have arrived. She merely offers them a ticket, and has them sign in, saying that it is part of her vocation to welcome and ease them into the pantry. That much is clear when her eyes beam as a crowd gathers outside the driveway.
“Keep fighting because life is beautiful,” she advises those lined up at the gate. Pilar approaches María and takes her ticket. “Am I late?” she asks. Thankfully not, and even if she were, María would have happily received her. The two chat for a moment before Pilar reassumes her place in line and heads towards the fruit. “Everybody’s happy here!” Pilar suddenly exclaims, throwing her hands up. Their desire to be there is contagious, and undeniably visible on their faces.
Farouz, for instance, serves at Calvary Baptist with her family and birth country of Syria in mind. She has volunteered at the pantry for four years and has been in the United States for 18. “Everybody’s family here. … It’s perfect,” she said.
Although her parents have since passed away, and her daughter is just a few months away from going to college, she has found joy in her work at the pantry. More importantly, she said, she’s passed on to her children the values that she lives out each time she comes to Calvary Baptist. “When I have Jesus on my side, I can help everyone,” Farouz says. And with her children equipped to help as well, she cannot be anything but proud.
The cost of living in the greater Los Angeles area continues to be a challenge for many. After paying the bills, little is often left to buy food. We believe everyone should have access to food. Our goal is to help meet people’s basic needs with love and kindness. With the help of Valley Food Bank, Rock of the Valley’s Missions Department is able to serve an average of 80-100 families each week. Families in our area can range from 1 individual to up to 12 members.
Upon receiving food from Valley Food Bank, we set aside sandwiches and other foods that are easily accessible for those who are homeless or do not have access to refrigeration or cooking. We deliver food to several people who are disabled and cannot come and receive food resources. When available, the Valley Food Bank also helps us to meet the needs of some basic hygiene items for adults, children, and babies.
Larry has been a faithful and committed volunteer. “I feel so much love when I come here, and you all give me food with a love that I never received from my mother,” he said. Giving Larry food items with no strings attached not only meets his basic needs, but seems to be therapeutic for him. We love to see the smile on his face each week as he receives food coupled with love and kindness.
With the help of the Valley Food Bank and other non-profit agencies, we have been able to meet the needs of the community as our outreach continues to grow. We appreciate the Valley Food Bank, your support, encouragement and prayers. We are grateful and thankful for everyone who makes serving the community possible.
Tammy, a retired Master Sergeant in the Air Force, volunteers her time faithfully every month to help the Antelope Valley Dream Center organize and hand out food and other necessities to families in need. She goes out of her way to lead people and encourage others to step in and fill the gap. We are so grateful for all she does for the community, as well as for her service to our country. Individuals like Tammy make it possible for us to reach people in order to build them up, restore hope in their lives, and inspire them to dream again.
As our country celebrated Independence Day, Tammy and a small band of dedicated volunteers were working behind the scenes to ensure resources were made available so others could enjoy their holiday. Kudos to Tammy!
Submitted by Pastor Paul Kim, Senior Pastor, The House – A Church Family
Marie and her beautiful daughter visited one of our pantries recently. From among the crowd they stood out because of their big smiles and copious “thank you’s.” When Marie was offered some corn, she declined. Since she didn’t have any place to cook it, the corn would be of better use to someone else, Marie said.
When asked about their story, Marie shared that when she became unexpectedly pregnant, many suggested abortion. Both of her parents had passed away and circumstances were hard, but for Marie, terminating the pregnancy was not an option. This was eight years ago. While she has never regretted her decision, the eight years since her daughter’s birth have been hard.
When Marie came to the pantry, she was out of food and out of gas—literally and figuratively—but the Lord has been faithful to her. She promised that we would meet at church. We have been able to connect, and by his grace, our connection will continue to grow. We are looking forward to this in faith and in hope.