Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Day 4 - Food Distribution

Today was suppoed to be a light day. It was discovered that working seven days a week at this tends to wear people out. Those who have been here a long time are told to take the day off. They get extra sleep, do laundry, etc. But since we're only here a week we hooked up with another crew. Today was working the food distribution line at Yankee Stadium for the Salvation Army.

I only managed to snap a few cameraphone pics because we were so busy. This is an efficient operation. We handed out water, boxes of non-perishable food, juice or gatorade, personal products kits, cleaning kits and if needed diapers or blankets.

People arrive in cars, tell us what they need and we load them up fast. I don't know how many cars we filled but it could well be over 350 by our rough estimate. They were evenly split between Vietnamese, Blacks, Whites and some Mexicans.

We were kept hopping loading cars and hauling pallets. It felt great seeing all these goods moving out. Everyone on the team was in great spirits. Our general leader was an 80 year old woman whose name I didn't get. I asked her if anyone abuses the system.

"Yep, if you're here long enough you'll begin to recognize cars. And some of the Vietnamese don't eat the food we give them. They sell it."

"What do you do when they come through again?"

"We load 'em up again."

I asked her at the end of the day how many cars came through twice or in some way looked like they weren't really in need. She guesses 3 or 4. That's not bad. There will always be people who abuse the system. But the vast majority of people we saw are just working to get their lives back on track. The distribution line runs Mon, Wed and Friday (down from 5 days a week). Tomorrow we will be working in the warehouse sorting and packing .I'm glad we're getting a crack at each of these different jobs. We also might work as a 'street crew'. It's going to be cold over the weekend and the street crews need to get more blankets and jackets to people who need them.

Rossana and I finished up when the line closed at 2:30 and headed back to base for a nap. Although not as exhausting as house crew, we were at it constantly. No sooner had we pulled up to our tent then a nice fellow named Thom asked us for a ride to Gulfport about 20 min away. We agreed since a lot of the other volunteers were still out and dinner wouldn't be for a few hours.

He had a lot of gear, much of it construction tools. On the way he told us of how he'd come down to Biloxi from South Carolina to get work. But his truck blew an engine. He hooked up with Hands on USA and helped out while trying to network for work which is real hard without wheels. He assembled the thirty or so bikes that were donated to us which we use for short trips and give to locals if they need them. He eventually got this job in Gulfport renovating a mobile home. We arrived at the site and moved him into the home. It needs a lot of work. No power or running water. I asked him how he was set for food and he said he had a granola bar and some chips. Why he didn't fill a box of food from our stores I don't know. I think he was just trying to get to the job. He hasn't seen his wife or step son for a month. The bank will soon start sending nasty letters about his Mortgage.

We took some of the gas money and took him shopping for some basics. For a guy so close to the edge he seems remarkably upbeat. He just wants to work. If he can hold on for a week then the money should start coming in. I hope he makes it.

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