HCFS Volunteer’s Scholarship Essay: The Meaning of Community Service

David strolls through the doors on a frigid afternoon. His baseball cap that reads  “United States Veteran” sits low enough on his head that his American flag pin proudly hits the light. Each day, he chooses to wear this small symbol of his patriotism. “How many apples today?” he inquired. On queue, Rhonda and I answer simultaneously, “Four!” David pushes his cart to check out, and I give him a big cheesy grin which he returns promptly, adding the phrase, “I’m so blessed to have people here who care about me.” For the following hour after he left, I pondered his simple statement. The Hill Country Family Services Food Pantry gives more than just food to its many patrons: we give our hearts. This new discovery of hope, family, and service kindled a new desire: dedicating more time for giving through HCFS.

Hill Country Family Services’ “Corner Cupboard” is unlike any other pantry. Set up in aisles, the Cupboard is designed to let the people in our community choose their food for the month, rather than receiving pre-packaged bags. The food pantry runs smoothly because of two main sources. Rhonda, the Food and Nutrition Program Manager, is at the very heart of HCFS. Not only does she arrive two hours before opening everyday to set up, but she also stocks shelves and makes sure that not a single child leaves without a stuffed animal in their hand. The second source is the dedicated volunteers giving their time each week to serve our community. Karen is a 75 year old woman who walks through the doors of the pantry precisely at noon every Wednesday. She chats with children about their toys while their parents shop, gives extra meat to larger families, and holds the door as people walk in and out. Lynda begins at 9:00, sweeping the floors and helping people choose the biggest potatoes. I joined this family in June of 2018, and I haven’t missed a week since.

In the over 100 hours I’ve spent in this welcoming environment, I’ve heard the stories of people from every background, age, ethnicity, and place one could imagine. As I watch each family exit through the doors with brown paper bags filled to the brim, I think of the impact I have been able to make. Each week, I not only give food, but I try and give a small light of hope to everyone I serve. This gift of hope is of most importance to me. I am able to be a support system for the people that need it most in our community. The feeling of connection and family in the Corner Cupboard was nothing like I had ever experienced in the county- it was a genuine love and support for people at their different walks of life. My involvement in this caring space is where I found my new devotion to service.