We all have a need to be part of something greater than ourselves. As Humanistic Jews, we satisfy that need through social action. Two key elements for social action are that it elevate the dignity of all involved and that it is sustained. Every act of helping must give those involved greater power to determine their own course in life. And while helping out once or twice is commendable, a long-term commitment to community service is the best way to both give and get the benefits.
This year our Congregation has found a new way to satisfy these needs. We are working with a national organization called Community Plates to deliver high quality food from restaurants and grocery stores to those who don’t have enough nutritious food to eat. The core of our participation in Community Plates is a ‘run’, in which volunteers use their cars to transport food from restaurants or stores to local distribution centers, where clients are either served prepared meals on site or shop for food to prepare at home.
We as volunteers are encouraged to ‘adopt’ a run, meaning that we commit to delivering food on a regular basis, usually weekly. Each of us becomes a fixture in the overall operation. We help sustain the flow of perfectly good food that would be discarded to those who regain a little more control over their lives by worrying less about the source of their next meal.
My family has adopted a run on Saturday mornings from Trader Joe’s in Fairfield to Merton House in Bridgeport. At 11 am, one or more of us, aged 12-48, pull our modestly sized Honda CRV up behind the store, where the staff helps us load the car with bins of produce and packaged goods about to expire. We then drive four miles to Merton House where we are met by other volunteers, who help us unload the bins onto hand trucks and wheel them via elevator into the basement food pantry. There we unpack the food onto shelves, some of which are refrigerated. Finally, we return the empty bins to the back of Trader Joe’s. The whole process takes about an hour.
Before adopting a run you can try the process by signing up to fill a single spot. And if adopting a run is not for you, you can sign up week to week for whatever open runs are listed. To date, eight member families from CHJ are participating; several more are about to try a run, and we have adopted six runs. Many people who tried Community Plates adopted a run right away, and one member has adopted two runs!
To help jump start this initiative, Beth has been coordinating CHJ activity by serving as the point person for signing up for runs. So you can email her if you want help getting started. Or you can create your own account by visiting Community Plates online.
Although we are not necessarily participating simultaneously, we are working together through larger organizations to empower our fellow human beings. Thanks to Teri Klein, we are now joining forces with the Interfaith Council of Westport and Weston. We can use our connections in the Congregation and the Interfaith Council to be even more effective.
We can pair seniors who can drive but may be leery of lifting bins with teens who can’t drive but are more than happy to load and unload. We can cover for each other so that we can adopt more runs without worrying that emergencies will prevent us from fulfilling our commitments. Together we can satisfy our need to be part of something larger than ourselves and satisfy the needs of others for a hand up.
Looking forward to hearing more about your experiences with Community Plates,Steve