Strengthening Families. Building Communities. Reducing Poverty.

When Clients Become Volunteers

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Not long after I began my position in Asheville I had an encounter with a food pantry client that served as a poignant reminder of how crucial and hopeful our services are. This gentleman had been coming to our Wednesday food pantry for quite some time. He is friendly, gregarious and always has on a smile. On this particularly frigid afternoon he explained that he did not have any way to transport the food home to his family. He asked if someone at the office might be willing to give him a ride. A few volunteers cheerfully offered. But because it was a busy day for the food pantry, I chimed in and said I could do it.

“Thank you so much for the ride, sir.”

“It’s no problem. Happy to help. Are you from Asheville originally?”

“Born and raised. But most of my family have moved.

Thanks for the food. We don’t know what we would do without it. We don’t have the money to go to the store. And we’re behind on rent. I wish there was some way I could give back.”

“Turn left here?”


“We would be happy to have you as a volunteer at the food pantry whenever you’re there. Just ask for Wendy next time you’re in. She’s our volunteer coordinator.”

Two weeks later he came to the office for food pantry, with a smile on his face, and wanted to meet with our volunteer coordinator. His expression of gratitude, to give back, was filled with hope. And I think it’s because he was provided not only with physical nourishment but with spiritual nourishment as well. He was welcomed by dedicated and caring volunteers.

In his Lenten message Pope Francis reminds us what our parishes, communities and organizations should look like: “Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!” On food pantry Wednesdays’ our volunteers transform our humble building into a very visible “island of mercy.”


By Justin Reilly, 
Western Regional Office Director



Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte © 2014