Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Celebrating an Anniversary with Red Barrels

By Victoria Tester

This April marked the first anniversary of the red non-perishable food barrels at both the Silver City and the Bayard Food Basket stores. The Food Basket store barrels played a large part this past year in local humanitarian aid to Palomas, Chihuahua.

We were thrilled when Food Basket’s corporate office quickly agreed to support the food barrel initiative last spring. It’s not easy to get permission to place a non-perishable food barrel at a grocery story, which is an ideal place for one, but Food Basket showed a wonderful compassion and willingness to support our closest Mexico border town during this time of crisis. I was deeply impressed with their concern for the Palomas community.

The large red plastic barrels are decorated with colorful drawings by the children of Palomas, and are placed just beyond the checkout stands at both Food Basket stores. They offer local residents of our communities a place and an opportunity to donate non-perishable food to the many families of Palomas who are served by the Palomas Outreach.

Need is dire. Many people are going for days without food. These barrels help relieve that situation.

The managers at both Food Baskets have worked to support the barrel initiative at their stores.

The Silver City Food Basket barrel, which fills about once a week (though up to once a day during the holidays), is located right at the exit door. “There are people,” says store manager Ray Marquez, “who come shopping just to put food in these barrels. It’s been real good. People buy flour and beans in the big bags. Customers are generous.”

Alan Walsmith, manager of the Bayard Food Basket, recently bought a twenty pound bag of beans for the non-perishable food barrel, and hung flyers to reinforce the beginning of the second year of the initiative.

Although the donations at the Bayard Food Basket barrel have been significantly less than those from the Silver City barrel, I am hopeful that with the hiring at the mines, more people who shop in Bayard will feel they can spare something for Palomas.

We appreciate each and every donation. There is no such thing, as a donation that’s too small – because a single pound of beans or pound of pasta could make a meal for a Palomas family who would otherwise not eat that day. These barrels support human dignity.

I’m the one responsible for picking up the food from the barrels and getting it to our Columbus office to get it ready to cross the border. It’s a great job. Seeing so much donated food is moving. It helps us all, spiritually. The food doesn’t really make me cry anymore, now that it’s been a whole year – except for those little iced Mexican cookies some donors put in for the kids. Those cookies still get to me.

I hope summer donations to the barrels will be generous, and that donors will think of donating child-friendly foods that can be opened and eaten without cooking, or simply heated. The Outreach plans a summer lunch program for the children of Palomas, many who will lose their daily meal when school ends.

A musical dance benefit to aid the Outreach summer meal program for Palomas children was hosted by Isaac’s Bar and Grill on Sunday May 15, featuring a wonderful mix of local, celebrated musicians.

(The author is U.S. Coordinator for La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach and poet, playwright and photographer)

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