UU Church Today, Practice & Voice

Community Resource Bank: Making Connections, Changing Lives

I started volunteering  at the CRB during the pandemic. Everything going on was so intense. Everything on the news was devasting and so many issues tugged at my heart: the pandemic, global warming, racism, homelessness, mental illness, police brutality, mass incarceration, suffering of immigrants at the border, etc. There were so many deeply important problems to address, so many ideas of things I could do and should do. I couldn’t decide. I’m a privileged person, with more free time than most. Yet, I still felt paralyzed. The fact that I was doing nothing made me feel worse.

All Souls Helps Our Community

At first I thought I would spend time and energy looking for organizations that matched my values, nonprofits which had needs that matched my abilities, and organizations that were addressing issues that matched my passions. All that research was unnecessary. I decided to work with a program that already existed in my own church community: the Community Resource Bank (CRB). That way I could help to alleviate hunger in Tulsa and also connect with All Souls members.

So, I started coming to church to help move food. It felt good to be doing something as tangible as picking up packs of canned beans and transporting them to a food pantry.

“Entering All Souls was comforting, yet depressing. It was like visiting a beloved friend who was asleep. It was reassuring to see her but she was empty and so silent.”

Yes, I was worried. What if one of the volunteers had Covid and I caught it and spread it to my family? What if I got it and spread it to the volunteers? We all wore masks. We were outside most of the time. We did not show up if we had symptoms. We took our temperatures and recorded them every time we came into the building. 

Entering All Souls was comforting, yet depressing. It was like visiting a beloved friend who was asleep. It was reassuring to see her but she was empty and so silent.

Volunteering Fosters Connections

I met All Souls members I didn’t know. While we worked in the parking lot, we commiserated about what was going in the world; the pandemic, the insurrection, global warming, the pandemic. We talked about politics, Netflix, and sports. We got to visit with JoJo, Antonio and Aaron the sextons, who were still taking care of things. We laughed with Corey Smith, our Youth Director, and were entertained by Joe Nurre’s stories.

The large metal carts were loaded with groceries before I arrived. We would roll them out to the van, unload the boxes and cans of beans, veggies, noodles, tuna, peanut butter and Happy Ohs. Happy Ohs were huge boxes of cereal that were always such a relief to carry after heavy packages of glass jars of jelly or spaghetti sauce. Sometimes we’d fill our own vehicles with food and drive separately to the food pantries (we had to keep social distance).

Getting to know the volunteers at Vernon AME, for instance, was such a joy. We built strong connections unloading the food onto dollies, wheeling them into the building and stacking the abundant supply on one side of their dining room. Sometimes homeless people who were waiting for breakfast helped.

Sharing the Warmth

Christina, a head volunteer at Vernon mentioned that she was worried about the upcoming winter. Many of the homeless people they served didn’t have winter wear. She also mentioned the need for blankets and pillows. I remembered the extra pillows resting in my closet. I brought them the next week and an older homeless man left with one. It hit me hard. It just seemed so crazy. To me, the pillow was this useless thing that took up space and to him, it would be something soft to separate his head from the cement.

Christina’s comment gave rise to the Share-the-Warmth drive. All Souls members generously donated bags and bags of coats, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, socks, blankets and pillows. These items got to people who really needed them.

Our Work Continues

All of this work is ongoing. We need volunteers, we need people to show up and load food onto the van, unload and drive the van. We need volunteers to organize the food, and sort it into bags.

I’m not exactly a super buff person, but I do it.

The individuals and families who benefit from this program truly need our assistance. Participating is a positive way to help others, while also connecting with All Souls members and volunteers in other loving communites. It feels really good to do something as tangible as moving food.

Kathleen Garrison has been an active member of All Souls for 18 years. She homeschooled her 2 sons who are currently in college. She loves writing, singing in the Adult Choir, playing fiddle with the Green Country Highlanders, and running.

The CRB fosters awareness about issues of poverty and hunger by responding to the hunger crisis by distributing material goods and food to our partner schools and partner agencies. 

The CRB needs volunteers each week to

  • Pack grocery bags
  • Help pick up food at the food bank
  • Load and distribute groceries to our community partners

The CRB is a proud partner agency of Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Contact: crb@allsoulschurch.org

Read more about the important work of the CRB during the pandemic here: http://beyondbelief.online/content2/wp-admin/post.php?post=3960