I spent the day working at a food bank, which was really more like a giant tent in a church parking lot along with three PODS storage components. To give you an idea of how the operation works, it is run single-handedly by a woman named Deborah who is the most genuine and giving person I have met in a long time. She has battled three types of cancer, stomach problems, and several other serious health problems, yet she wakes up every day at 4:30 to make the two hour drive into New Orleans, five days a week to set up shop. She moved away after the storm to the closest place she could find, and now that her daughter is set in school, she doesn't want to move again. In addition to the grocery distribution, they serve a hot meal every day that is free to anyone who needs it. The operation is so well organized that it is hard to believe how few people are really behind it. At the same time, it was amazing to realize how many organizations came together today to make everything run smoothly. Between Hands On, Americorps, Second Harvest, New England College, and the church, we were able to distribute emergency food supply to over 400 families today. We also served hot meals to many of those people, including a group of contractors from Idaho who said they hadn't been paid for their work in the last month, but were afraid to quit because they might never see that money. There are some sleezy operations down here that are making conditions worse for a lot of people, and it's really sad to hear about.
When we arrived, the pods were filled with food, and my job was to help sort everything into bags that would be given out to families. I spent the entire morning loading beef stew, green beans, and spaghetti o's into paper bags. The bags were then moved outside the tent to tables where other volunteers were distributing them to the line of cars. I spent the afternoon helping load up cars and was floored by what I saw. At one point a Hummer pulled up in line, and I thought to myself, "If these people can afford this car, how could they possibly need emergency food supplies?" When I approached the car with the groceries, I immediately realized the error of my thinking. Everything these people could salvage from their homes was in that Hummer. It was all they had left. They probably used it to escape the storm and have returned to their destroyed home with no where else to go. It was heartbreaking. Later I saw another car pull off to the side of the parking lot and unload a propane stove to cook the canned food we had just given them. Deborah said that this is typical and oftentimes she arrives in the morning to find people staying inside the large tent. Apparently Wal-Mart parking lots are prime locations for camping vehicles for the night. The devastation is so far reaching that I'm only beginning to realize the true effects of such a terrible disaster.
Okay, I am officially typing and sleeping at the same time. I wish I had more time to write, but I must get some sleep. I have a long day of gutting houses ahead of me.