Neighbor helping neighbor

Published 11:01 am Tuesday, April 3, 2018

March mornings can be somewhat brisk in Farmville, but for someone who has few resources for adequate food or other necessities, the cold can cut right to the bone.

Into the void of hunger steps FACES, an acronym for Farmville Area Community Emergency Services. The all-volunteer food bank operation works its magic in a small warehouse a few hundred feet from the High Bridge Trail and the bustle of Main Street in downtown Farmville.

Each Saturday, a small army of volunteers gather to distribute food to those in need. The choreography required to meet the need is well-practiced: clients form a line outside, while volunteers take on a list of tasks. Some help guide the shopping carts for the clients, even delivering the groceries to a car in the parking lot, then returning the cart to a queue of volunteers to repeat the process.

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Recently my wife and I were a couple of the many volunteers. My resolve to stay warm at home was no match for my wife’s enthusiasm to help others. She learned about the program only a day or two earlier, showing up to help unpack pallets and boxes of food, fresh fruits and vegetables that would be distributed on the weekend.

As we asked FACES staff where we should report to be of some help, the repeated answer was “Guenter.” That would be Guenter Loeser, one of the directors of FACES. He led us to our posts — back outside in the cold — amid pallets of fruits and vegetables. My assignment? Distribute bags of green grapes.

My wife would hand out the cantaloupes. Obviously Guenter miscalculated my worth… one-pound bags of grapes were hardly a challenge. But Guenter was already a step ahead of me. Those pallets of grapes were stacked about 7-8 feet high. I was among only a few volunteers who could reach them without causing a grape avalanche.

Double doors next to my post began to swing open. As the carts rolled by one after the other, I dutifully began distributing the grapes. Sharon offered cantaloupes, and beyond that were oranges and bananas.

As the morning wore on, we met families who were picking up provisions for neighbors who couldn’t make it out. We also noticed the stacked pallets of grapes were slowly getting shorter. We instituted a new approach. We asked the client if they wanted grapes, then asked if they wanted more grapes. By the end of the morning I had emptied between 50 and 60 cases of grapes. My wife’s stack of cantaloupes was down to a dozen or so cases.

The wintry chill of that Saturday morning had been replaced by the warmth of helping our neighbors. If the work of FACES interests you, here’s how to get involved. Contact Ellery Sedgwick, the group’s president, at (434) 392- 3588 or esedgwick@longwood. edu. Volunteers are needed Thursdays 8:45-11 a.m. and 3:45- 6 p.m., and Saturdays 7:30-10:30 a.m. You’ll be glad you did.

RUSTY CARTER is managing editor of The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is