Thursday, June 05, 2008

Like Lucy and Ethel, Only Without the Chocolates...

Aaron GCFD
This photo was taken by Mary, one of my co-workers (from the Wheaton office) who had a camera phone. I don't always look so awful--I usually look worse! It was fun, though. Notice the dopey smile. She took a photo of each of us individually, and all of us were smiling. I won't put the other photos up, though, because my co-workers will fucking murder me...

Yesterday, I, along with seven of my co-workers, spent an afternoon volunteering at Greater Chicago Food Depository. Our Executive Secretary arranged a group service afternoon for the Admin staff. (Yes, I'm an Admin person--because heaven wasn't satisfied with giving me an ungainly appearance, it also arranged to saddle me with the self-loathing MotherKarma necessary to make one's living solving other people's self-induced problems).

But I digress. The afternoon was actually a lot of fun. We left the downtown office at 11:30 and a few folks rode in my car. It only takes a few minutes to get to the GCFD, because it's right off of the Pulaski exit on I-55. We had pizza and laughed about work (it's better than crying), and then several high school students arrived. (And I mean, 30 or so kids--we were a big group!)

I'd volunteered at the GCFD before, 3 years ago, right after they'd moved into the new facility. We did a whole day that time, and we spent the morning sorting bread (checking for loaves that were crushed or moldy and throwing them out) and loading it onto palettes for delivery, and the afternoon shoveling pasta into bins. I went home plenty sore, I can tell you.

This time, we worked on the emergency food box assembly line, taking items and inserting them precisely into boxes. And it had to be precise: there were about 20 items in each box and they had to be placed in just the right spot, or else the boxes couldn't be sealed and taped. So the supervisor (Keith) started off by walking down the line and demonstrating how each item should be placed, which took about 10 minutes. Then we were off and running.

Now, the food items ("product" as it's termed) comes directly from the food company warehouses, so all the cases are still wrapped in that thick plastic, which takes a few seconds to tear off and remove, so it became necessary during breaks in the assembly line to unwrap three or four cases at a time so I had the loose cans available to place in the boxes. There were a few folks on hand to help with this (when we got close to running out of something, we'd raise a hand and yell "PRODUCT!"), but it was clearly too much for our poor, beleaguered girl to do all on her own.

My product was canned beef stew, in 16-ounce cans, which are larger than soup cans, so there are fewer cans per case, which meant unwrapping and uncrating more often. And I got flashbacks of the "I Love Lucy" chocolate factory episode. Too bad I couldn't fit those cans down my shirt! And there were a LOT of cans moved. Let's just say that in the end, it didn't matter that I hadn't made it to the gym that morning...

We wrapped up (no pun intended) at 3:30 and started clearing up all of our plastic and cardboard detritus. Keith told us that we'd collectively assembled 653 Emergency Food Boxes. For about two hours' solid work, that wasn't bad, especially for a group our size.

Our volunteer coordinator, Jim, told us that GCFD relies on its volunteers to keep operating: they package so many thousands of meals per day that if they stopped getting volunteers, they'd effectively close down within a month. I heartily recommend volunteering for anybody who's looking for such an opportunity and who lives in Chicago.

After we finished, we drove back downtown, where I dropped off my co-workers and headed back north to get ready for Joans rehearsal with Ed Joans and Taylor Joans. I was completely whacked by then, and sadly, my energy went to hell after about an hour. I managed to do some drum-playing nonetheless...

I went home plenty sore, I can tell you!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can recall a story Channel 5 did on the CGFD about a week or so ago. They were stating how they're getting pretty tight on the donated foods due to the fact that more middle-income families are seeking their help in these hard economic times. Kudos to you and the volunteers. And it's time to start patting yourself on the back. There is no "foundation" in those personal attacks against yourself (i.e., Dopey smile, looking awful, admitting to being an admin person, etc)! (((((Aaron)))))

Thank you for your volunteerism!

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaron, you look happy to be there. I can only imagine how many people go hungry every day in a city like Chicago. To bad it wasn't a product you could eat when no one was looking. Ed

8:23 PM  
Blogger Stephen Rader said...

You are the best! Volunteering and doing so much for the community! And cute as Hell while doing it!! :)

10:24 PM  
Blogger American Girl said...

What a great thing you and your co-workers did!

At this difficult time in your own life, being able to help out others really shows your true character. Sarah

9:33 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Steven: It's true, Jim mentioned that more and more people were applying for assistance now, which really tightens things there. And I'll try to pat myself on the back. Once my arms are uncramped. :-)

Ed: We really did enjoy ourselves. I love doing honest-to-God manual labor sometimes. It makes me feel like I've accomplished something. Nothing else makes me feel like that anymore, unless I've finished a report (which always comes back with tweaks to be made) or recorded something (which we're about to do--more on that as it develops!)

Stephen: I don't know about that last part, but I'll take it! :-) I wish I could do more sometimes. It feels like there's more and more that needs doing these days, since our citizens no longer care for each other.

Sarah: Thank you--everyone was genuinely glad to be there! And actually, staying busy has sort of helped me's like a little mini-therapy, without the thousands of dollars to a shrink. :-)

11:33 AM  

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