They’re here…….doing all sorts of things. Things you should know about.

Teens are here leading. Yesterday The Cooperative Feeding Program posted appeals in several places for help to refill the pantry’s very empty shelves. Who was the very first person to jump in to action? Jenna Iden, a high school student at University School of Nova Southeastern. Yup, you read it right. The leader so far in this critical drive is too young to vote, run for office or miss curfew. She forwarded the info to loads of people, encouraged them to participate, and was the first person to donate through our online virtual food drive . Well done Jenna.

Teens are here caring. Today the Harold Reitman Unit of the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County came to help us hand out coats (yes, it even gets cold in Ft. Lauderdale) and spread a little cheer during the grey, chilly morning. The coats came primarily from 2 sources; The Good Morning America/Burlington Coat Factory coat drive through One Warm Coat and the teens’ own coat drive. They came. They gave. They cheered. This isn’t the first time either. We’ve been very privileged to have them with us before. In fact they were just here on Christmas Day handing out hygiene kits and shirts. Imagine that. A bunch of teenagers giving up their Christmas morning and doing so fully equipped with big smiles, cheerful faces and a happy to be here attitude. We can’t wait to have them back here again.

The teens are here. Not just here as in a physical location. They’re here – leading, caring, helping to shape a more just and sustainable future. They are here helping in the pantry, serving on the line, taking a turn at the front desk, even sorting mail. They’re here at their schools, their clubs and homes.

The teens are here. Where are you?

It’s also for plenty, which is what we don’t have right now. The holidays are over, but hunger isn’t. In 2 months The Cooperative Feeding Program moved over 210,000 pounds of food, which is over 6000 emergency boxes. It’s a fantastic thing to be able to put such a basic necessity of life into so many hands, but all the hard work has left our shelves empty and warehouse depleted. I know, it’s a bit depressing, but around here there is no time for depressing! We’ve pulled on our bootstraps, circled the wagons and are sending out the word – Virtual Food Drives now!  Here’s how you can participate in the drive and restock those shelves.

1. Jump on our website and click on the virtual food drive link (it’s on the left). You’ll be redirected to our secure server where you can shop in our virtual grocery store.

2. Go to our Firstgiving page and do a personal fundraising campaign. You can do it all on your onsies or challenge your friends to a fundraising duel.

3. If you’re a local, shake down your cupboards, your mom’s kitchen (with her permission of course), your friends’ pantries (you should ask them first too), anywhere some non-perishable food might be hiding out and bring it on over. We’ll be sure it goes to a good home.

4. Pass it on. Forward this blog to all of your contacts. You never know who just might have 6 or 7 pallets of peanut butter lying about waiting for us to come get!

Wheee Doggies!

January 2, 2008

Well campers it’s been very busy here at The Cooperative Feeding Program. In November alone we served 11,750 meals and gave out over 3,300 food boxes. Needless to say we were a bit busy. Our web updates, (including our e-newsletter) have been a bit sporadic lately. So, in order to be sure we tell you all the great things going on, thank as many wonderful people as possible, and keep you up to date on hunger, homelessness and social justice issues I’ll be updating the blog, Facebook and MySpace quite often. Get ready!Each update will be fairly short, so if you don’t see yourself, group, or question addressed,wait a bit and see if it doesn’t show up soon. Of course, you can always drop me a note if you think we missed you or someone else. As always feel free to e-mail me (maureen@feedingbroward.org) any pics, videos, or info on your volunteer group activities for The Cooperative Feeding Program.

Oh and you social networking volunteers? I haven’t forgotten you. In fact I’m probably calling you right now…….

Best of all things good and sustainable in 2008!

Are you a Bubba?

November 17, 2007

The Cooperative Feeding Program was fortunate to be featured in a story on diminishing federal aid to food banks by the Sun-Sentinel last week. If you didn’t catch the print version it included a very nice picture of Barbara, our Pantry Manager, and Bubba, one of our customers, as she handed him his bag of food. It was a nice picture and we passed the paper around commenting on it and how much we liked Bubba. He volunteered with us often, helping others through their morning meal. Everyone had a story to tell, a connection to make.

This morning the picture went around again, but for a very different reason. Bubba was shot a few days ago and died after suffering a massive heart attack on the operating table. Of course we were all shocked, another act of senseless violence right here in our hometown. What really struck me though was what a big hole in the world, one which can be palpably felt, his passing made. He was no political leader, no major philanthropist or life saving surgeon, but he was kind, compassionate and genuine. If your life was over right now, in this instant, how many people could say that about you?

Most of us will never broker a Middle East peace accord, discover a cure for a disease or be a captain of industry, but we can all be kind. Hold the door for a stranger. Smile gently at someone on the street who looks in need of a little kindness, a little compassion. Acknowledge the cashier at the grocery store and for the few minutes it takes to check out engage with them, ask them how they are and mean it. If someone cuts you off in traffic, slow down and let them in. Be thankful that you didn’t have an accident and your life come to an end sharply, abruptly and without warning.

These are not big things, not complicated acts. But if we each were a little kinder, a little more compassionate, a little more like Bubba wouldn’t the world be a better place? As we move into the holiday season ask yourself this question….. Are you a Bubba?

He’s My Hero

November 12, 2007

Ricky and Chris

Meet my friend Ricky, pictured above with our Volunteer Coordinator, Chris Polzer. (Ricky is on the left) Like most of us Ricky is a lot of things. He’s really funny, hard working, dedicated, a vet, a chef and homeless. How and why he became homeless is a story for another time. This story is about where he is in the here and now and the courage it took for him to be here.

Ricky first came to Cooperative Feeding like most people, looking for a hot meal, a shower and some clean clothes. He came looking for that, but he needed more. He needed a place to belong, a place to rebuild, a place to call home. He started off slowly, by volunteering to wash the dishes and lending a hand. Then he started coming in every day as a scheduled volunteer staff member. As time went on he was asked to take on an increasing amount of responsibility. He met each new task with determination and with each new task met he grew in confidence.

Today he is our Chef, getting here bright and early to prepare the day’s meal with careful consideration and kindness. Ricky still has a long road ahead of him, but he has a job, a safe place to sleep and he is in recovery. Under extraordinarily difficult circumstances he did something very few of us could do under ideal circumstances. He took a good long look at himself and his life and had the courage to change.

This Veteran’s Day meet Ricky. He’s a vet, a chef, a friend and my hero.

Happy Veteran’s Day Ricky.

November 12, 2007

Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States. The news is filled with stories of heroics and self-sacrifice juxtaposed with stories of homelessness, mental health issues and limited benefits. Originally this inaugural blog was to be one of those; a banner waving for social justice for those who have sacrificed so much for us. It was to be discreetly published under the agency’s site as more of a commentary. When I thought about the vets I knew – my father, brother, aunt, uncle, coworkers and friends – that seemed so trite, so unimportant, so self-serving. Not at all the reflections one should have in honor of Veteran’s Day. So I’ve decided instead to write a real blog, with my real name and post it where everyone can see it. Not exactly storming the beaches of Normandy, but here goes….

PS – the real blog is next