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.