Disappointed with the experience

<p>This morning, I volunteered at a food pantry place. Once a month they give out Free food to those who need it. I was bit disppappointed. The people spent money on gas, stood in line for half an hour, did dome paper work, listened to a nutritionist, and all they got was One loaf of bread, as many bananas, onions and carrots they wanted.</p>

<p>I thought the organization was playing a cruel joke on these people. I had signed up for three hours, but left after hour and a half - their work process required the clients to be escorted when they do their onion shopping. I escorted only one lady.</p>

<p>And the funny thing is while I was driving back, my client was driving a car that was better than mine.</p>

<p>That does sound disappointing. I volunteer at a food pantry in our community and there is a lot more food given away than what you've mentioned, Simba. The recipients come in twice a month and, based on their family size, we fill bag after bag of food for them. Some families leave with 9 full grocery bags of produce, canned goods, frozen breads and pastries, beverages, cereal, etc... All of the food is collected from grocery stores (dented cans or one-day-past-expiration produce) or given to the pantry by community members/businesses. It is an encouraging experience for me and my D because the people are very needy (mentally ill on the streets, large families with sick parents who can't work, etc...). But yes, once when I was leaving, I noticed one of the ladies loading a small SUV that was many years newer than my decrepid mini-van. Still, I wouldn't trade places. None of the food in my pantry is dented or past its expiration date.</p>

<p>Mine was like the experience of the poster just above mine <a href="cept%20the%20car%20thing%20lol">momof2inca</a>. I say find another place and don't let it discourage you.</p>

<p>I hope so. I was counting on such jobs when I retire.</p>

<p>I had a similarly disappointing experience the year I threw myself into volunteering for the "Family Giving Tree" holiday gift collection. I wrote a long reflective piece about my disappointment afterwards; I'd be happy to PM a link to you if you're interested. You ever seen those trees with gift tags you're supposed to take and provide that gift for that specific child? Well, guess what? Every tag is duplicated so there are two or three of them in the area (around here anyway), to increase the likelihood that each child will receive the gift they wished for. This results, though, in large numbers of children having duplicate gifts purchased, with the extras going to fill in the spaces for gifts that were not purchased. While I understand the theory, in practice it's not a clean win. I had pulled all the tags off my office tree asking for "backpack and school supplies" -- they made me cry. I assembled a fun collection of stuff for each kid, taking their age into account, and then made keychains with the kid's name on it, attaching it to each one's backpack before I handed them in. Guess what. When I volunteered at the "wrap and sort" facility, I learned that they always had far too many backpacks, so they just threw the duplicates into the "go shopping" pile for kids who didn't get anything. I could just imagine when a girl whose name was NOT Vanessa opened her backpack and found the VANESSA keychain (I am <em>certain</em> the volunteers did <em>not</em> bother to look for anything personalized on each item). Then I saw other things in the "go shopping" area that were duplicates, like the note from the grandmother attached to the package saying, "I hope it's OK that I included a couple of Atlases for Jose along with the model cars: when I was 10, I loved to read Atlases, and I hope he will, too." Or the notes in children's scrawl saying, "You will like this doll, Melissa, it's just like the one I have and I love it very much." These people thought about the recipients of their gifts and put effort and love into their selections... and their selections didn't even go to the child for whom they were intended. Or maybe to anyone at all.</p>

<p>It was basically emotional blackmail for those who would be donators, I thought, playing with people's feelings to pretend to create a temporary human connection which isn't real, and I've never participated again. I try to only do service projects now with defined goals and concrete results ("clean and paint the day room at the drop-in center for the homeless mentally ill clients"). As momof2inca says, our local Second Harvest Foodbank is usually a good place to volunteer, and is well run. Could you look for a similar-but-different foodbank that operates on different principles, simba? Or is that the only one in your area?</p>

<p>There are many warnings out about investigating where your money goes when you donate to a charity. Sometimes most or all of the money goes to those soliciting the donation under the title of "dispensation of information". The same goes for donating gifts and time. There are plenty of charities that are well run. There are also plenty that are not. I don't think you can really expect them to be as well run as many businesses that make me shake my head as I try to get service. After all, they are charities and are often not run by those who are the most organized or able.<br>
It is easy to get cynical when you see some of the chaos. Even worse when you see the beneficiaries are "undeserving", ungrateful and even profiting by selling the proceeds of charity. I have personally seen all of the aforementioned things, and it does punch you in the gut. A friend of mine who bought into one of those gum machine businesses,as part of the purchase price of the business, was able to get labels to stick on the machine saying that the proceeds benefit the blind. And the label came from a legitimate charity for the blind who sell those labels for fund raising. Did not sit well with me. Distributing Thanksgiving grocery bags, we found that a number of beneficiaries were selling them around the corner for cash--they had no interest in the food. A cancer organization that I supported used bald kids as tear jerkers for money, when very little of the money goes to pediatrics, I found out. If you google ungrateful Katrina welfare recipients, you will find stories by volunteers that can really turn you.<br>
Yet the need is real. Just drive through any impoverished neighborhood. Talk to any social worker. It's getting the funds to a form of useable goods to those who most need it that is the challenge. And so it is with every charity endeavor. Just as the results of any of our labors is not 100%, neither is that of charity. By being aware, you can put your money and efforts into those works that are the most efficient.</p>

<p>Definitions of need vary. My mouth dropped open when I heard a grandma explain to a group of people that they had to use her Jeep to pick up all the Christmas gifts that were going to her needy grandchildren (Mom's car, which she had received as a gift from some other program, couldn't hold them all) and amongst the gifts was a Playstation for her 5 year old grandson (he'd requested it), and thought the gifts were both inappropriate and more expensive than what we gave our own kids. Grandma is not an URM and graduated from private LAC (since this is a college discussion board). </p>

<p>It is easier not to stand face to face with these things and anytime you get involved personally it's hard to not be judgmental. Keep trying and I think you'll find something that fits your purposes - your experience is not unusual.</p>

<p>It is easy to be cynical- I personally know familes who have money for only one parent to even be looking for a job,( that fits their required "stature"), yet have money to add a third bathroom and three car garage onto their home, yet still need to borrow money from other relatives and get their food from a church sponsored food bank-</p>

<p>We have gotten food from teh food bank before, when I was seperated from my husband and the total of our jobs wasn't even close to what we needed to live.
However, we didn't find the food bank to have what I would feed my kids. I was pressured to take frozen food, that had obviously been thawed and refrozed several times and was virtually unrecognizable ( I threw it out when I got home),I realized that if my kids were actually starving to death, we would have tried harder to eat the offerings, but we would have rather eaten some ramen for a few more weeks, than take away food from those who were so bad off that the food bank food was actually tolerable.</p>

<p>However, at the time that I was interviewed for other services, and while we hadn't been low income for long enough to qualify for things that would have really helped, it was also getting close to the holiday season, and they asked me what my kids would like/need. I couldn't really think of anything except for mittens and a hat since it was getting cold, and when a couple weeks later a box with nicely wrapped presents of beautiful books and warm hats and mittens showed up at my door, I cried to know that someone cared enough to give things to my kids without even knowing them.</p>

<p>This was especially poignant because our own families had put us into the position of having to decide whether to allow the girls to keep excessively expensive gifts ( $150 for talking bear toys) or to take them back and buy groceries . ( We talked to the girls and we took them back)</p>

<p>So while I know there are families who probably abuse the generosity of those who donate, there are also families who really depend on it & it makes a difference to them.</p>

<p>I agree that it's important to check into the programs that one volunteers with or donates to.</p>

<p>I have given through programs in which I got to personally meet the recipients. I have seen poverty that I wouldn't imagine could occur. Once, we gave to a family that had an elementary school-aged boy who was crosseyed, such a sad thing to see since the problem is cureable. Another time, we gave to a family that in the dead of winter in Detroit, had their home's windows covered with torn plastic.</p>

<p>I also have started volunteer programs, and have helped make sure that the recipients were needy. One way to do this is by giving to schools serving large numbers of low income students. The teachers and GCs know who's poor, partially are a result of the clothing kids wear and who qualifies for school lunches.</p>

<p>I hope that no one decides not to donate or volunteer due to some badly run programs. I've known adults who when they were children were in families that received holiday food baskets that were very needed and appreciated.</p>

<p>momof2inca,</p>

<p>I do not suggest your food pantry hand out dented cans, even if the families in need. Often times they are not blemishes, and is dented because of bacteria.
Btw- I dont know why im on the parents forum =)</p>

<p>from the FDA: </p>

<p>
[quote]
Q: Is it safe to use dented cans?
A: Products in slightly dented cans can be consumed as long as there are no leaks and the product appears wholesome. Do not consume products from severely dented, leaking, or swollen cans or jars.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>When we were foster parents, our foster children received gifts from the community. (Perhaps some were Angel Tree requests, but if so, we were never aware of it. I could believe it, though.) Sometimes, the gifts were excessive - more Christmas presents than we gave our own children (and we did try to keep it "fair.") When this happened, we might set aside a thing or two to hold back for their birthday, and/or put a few things in our "gift" cabinet - Barbie Dolls or such for the child to give when she/he was invited to a schoolmate's birthday party. We did try to keep things attached to the child they were intended for. If we had more than one foster child at holiday times, we might "share" things to even the stacks.</p>

<p>We always asked for the gifts to be delivered unwrapped, so we could check them. Some of the gifts were absolutely thoughtful and carefully selected. Other times, gifts were clearly used, sometimes broken or soiled. One year, one child got a wrapped box that was full of random dollar store items. I tried not to be judgmental - who knows if this was the very best this giver could do? One year, a child's sponsor was a Brownie troop, and the gifts were simple, but the givers were so excited. (We obviously supplemented when this happened. As I recall, the caseworker brought some things from that slush pile, too, -- a bike!) Most of our foster children believed in Santa, so we couldn't honor "can we meet her?" requests, but we did try to take a photo and send to the giver.</p>

<p>I am aware of foster parents who game the system. Asking for things their own children want. One foster parent always asked for Little Tykes things, because they sold so well at garage sales. I'm also aware of caseworkers who "go shopping" in the things donated for foster kids. I have a strong sense of fairness, and it bothers me that these things happen, and I even discussed it with the person in charge of it. She acknowledged the problem, but was a bit defensive. I'm also aware of the foster kids who really benefit, so I don't know what the answer is. I do not, however, participate in any of the foster kid donation drives anymore (the backpack thing is typical). I look for ways to give directly. </p>

<p>While on the subject of judging: Our especially young foster children qualified for WIC. One day I was buying groceries, and separated out the WIC items. The cashier was chatting merrily until she got to the WIC items - she cut herself off in mid-sentence and didn't say another word to me. As I left, she and the person behind me in line began discussing my non-WIC purchases, aghast that I had the audacity to use taxpayer money when I could obviously afford to buy potato chips and such! Part of me wanted to explain, but I didn't, because I felt it was none of their business. </p>

<p>The fact that I am white, and "my" babies were sometimes dark, also got censure, but that's another story.</p>

<p>I know people feel better giving "stuff" rather than money, but social service agencies, and other not-for-profits, will always use money more efficiently than items. </p>

<p>As for thinking that these groups waste money, well, all I can say is, anyone who thinks that should try working for one of them...Second (or third) hand computers, desks whose drawers don't open or close, chairs that should have been sent to the dump 10 years ago, phone "systems" that require you to shout across the office for someone pick up, printing on both sides of every sheet of paper, copy machines and printers that, when they are working, do one sheet per 3 minutes, and even the executive director takes turns cleaning the bathroom...Funds are tight and need to be spent where they do the most good.</p>

<p>I was involved with a non-profit that often received 'gifts' of sewing machines, yarns, fabrics, etc. that were obviously the result of a death and the family having cleaned out the person's house. I came to realize we were providing the givers a service by throwing out the non-working, rusted machines, etc. because they didn't have the heart to do it and were then able to tell themselves that at least Mom's unfinished, dry rotted needlepoint piece was going into the hands of someone happy to have it. It was just another way that the group fulfilled it's non-profit mission.</p>

<p>^ "It was just another way that the group fulfilled it's non-profit mission."</p>

<p>Well, that's one way of looking at it ;) -- but the reality is that a paid employee is probably taking the time to go through the stuff and deal with it, when she probably has a million things that she should be doing.</p>

<p>Not in this case - I was never paid and handled most of it - but I can imagine it does happen somewhere.</p>

<p>reflecting back, perhaps I was too judgemental on my client....Perhaps, she was donating her time to pick up the food for some one who did not have transportation.</p>

<p>"...at least Mom's unfinished, dry rotted needlepoint piece was going into the hands of someone happy to have it. It was just another way that the group fulfilled it's non-profit mission." Lefthand, this made me want to laugh and cry at the same time! Packrats like myself have emotional ties to our dead relatives' stuff & really hope someone will love those wine glasses or end tables. I've never stooped to donating the dry rotted items yet, though.</p>

<p>The important point is to find a charity that you KNOW is true to its mission. I discovered some theft from the local charity thrift shop & reported it. (Workers get an almost new Coach bag, for example, price it at $.50, and buy it themself.) They cleaned house after investigating. Now more money can be raised for mental health services for those who can't afford it. I've also done some senior health screenings where the seniors complained about getting too much tuna or too much peanut butter from the food pantry. I just gently suggest that they not take more than they need. (Although inside I was thinking, "Beggars can't be choosers!") I've also seen seniors who hoarde items. Some are teetering on the brink of mental illness. They have ample funds to live on, yet refuse to pay utility bills & the social workers have their hands tied. It's complicated to prove someone is not competent to care for themselves and make rational decisions. But they sit in the dark until it is sorted out. It can be heartbreaking.</p>

<p>There are more worthy charity causes than there are dollars to fund them. And probably more scams than legitimate organizations. Choose carefully.</p>