Follow fun updates as well as interesting stories about clients, volunteers and supporters of SFBFS

March 27, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is my favorite time of the year. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s a time when people take a look at what’s cluttering up their closets, cupboards, garages and attics and assess whether they need to hold onto things. Many people gather up the clothes they haven’t worn in years, the books they've read a thousand times, the toys that their kids have grown out of, and don’t hesitate to donate them to places that serve families in need in our community. However, for some of us, letting go of usable or like-new items can be the hardest. We imagine that someday, somewhere at some point someone will want or need these items, we’ll start/complete the project that we bought all of those supplies for, we’ll lose/gain that weight, or we’ll finally try those more exotic foods that are in the back of our pantry. Sound familiar? Then read on!

I have been facing the same dilemma for four years now: how do I make my home office into, well, an office? Recently, I asked a friend and organizing expert to help me with this task. The problem was that I had lots of great, usable items, and no space to move in my office. Everything from barely used prom dresses to school supplies and books. I hired her specifically to create a system of organization that allowed me to use my office for creative writing, college studies, sewing, scrapbooking and just maybe an impromptu guest room. After three hours, we had moved throughout my house and garage, come up with a general plan and not moved once single item. Why? Because before we could dig into the piles, I had to answer one question: do I need this? It seems simple, but it’s what we ask ourselves all throughout spring cleaning. The most enlightening moment was when my friend said “Ask yourself, ‘Could someone else be loving this?’ Because everything that clutters up your house is taking space from your life, sucking energy from your being.”

I had never considered that the great things that were simply sitting in my spaces were causing me stress just by being there, but they were. And unloved? Yes, they were being neglected, unused, just gathering dust where they could be making someone happy. In fact, if I gathered these items and brought them down to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, they could make a world of difference to families struggling through hard times. Suddenly, the decisions were simple. I wasn’t giving up good things; I was passing along happiness and tools for success. By donating my unloved items, I was giving another family in my community the opportunity to achieve their dreams. So, when you’re clearing out your house this spring, think of the joy you could be spreading through our community and you might just renew your soul.

Submitted by Tarah Frost, Donation Drive Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

March 26, 2014

Working at SFBFS' Youth Education Program

Working at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) has been a great experience for me. I have gained so many skills in such a short amount of time. My journey with SFBFS began with me becoming a volunteer in the Food program. I needed to fulfill group service hours for a class I was taking and we decided as a group that SFBFS would be perfect. The organization's mission was so meaningful and the main goal was to help those in need, so my group and I decided this would be the best place to give back.

We decided to volunteer in the Food program simply because that was what SFBFS was known for and there wasn't a wait time to volunteer in the food program. We started bagging food items on Friday mornings which was a pleasant experience for us because everyone was so friendly. Later, I attended a couple amazing food distributions which felt nothing like a typical distribution. I could not remember seeing or hearing about such a distribution that was so upbeat and allowed the clients to forget they were at an actual food giveaway. In that moment, I knew Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services was an organization I would be more than glad to work for if the opportunity ever arose.

Several months later one of my counselors at school presented me with an off-campus job opportunity. I had been searching for a job for quite some time so I decide to go ahead and apply regardless of the position. To my surprise it was a position at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, exactly where I said I wanted to be! Within two weeks of applying and going through the interview process I was hired and began on my birthday. It has now been over a year and I must say I am still happy to wake up and go to work each day. I actually look forward to interacting with the youth and getting to know them, as well as their families.

The Youth Education program has three separate components: Playcare Academy, After School Academy and Computer Clubhouse. I work in the After School Academy with youth in grades 1 - 6 that need extra homework support, one-on-one tutoring, or just something to do after school. I am the After School Academy Assistant and help with the organizing and planning of the day-to-day operations of the program. I supervise the youth, as well as wonderful volunteers who make it possible to provide the different services we are able to offer. We are always finding new ways to better serve the youth in the community and I really enjoy it. I look forward for to continuing to be a part of such an amazing organization now and in the years to come. 

Submitted by Krystal Harnell, Youth Education Program Assistant at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

March 25, 2014

Kate's Korner - April 2014

Kate’s Korner – The Hidden Half

Do you think you know a lot about plants? Can you identify all the crops in our Demonstration Garden and each flower in your pots at home? Maybe you know how to start vegetables from seed and the kind of compost your tomatoes like? This is all very well and important to know if you’re a gardener, but I’m going to tell you that you only know half of everything about plants. People learn about what they can see, but they don’t know much about the “hidden half” of plants – their roots. 

You see roots during transplanting or while tearing out a noxious weed but you never see them in action, underground.  It’s hard to even imagine that more than half the plant is below the surface because it’s rarely visible.  Scientists have been studying plant roots for over 100 years but they still remain mysterious – there are many unanswered questions about how they grow and move in the soil. 

Roots serve four major functions – they absorb nutrients and water, store nutrients, anchor the plant, and create plant clones. Gardeners know to keep the soil moist and full of nutrients (fertilizer, etc) so the roots can continuously absorb these things and stay alive.  Also, if you have ever grown crops on a slope you know how important strong roots are to keeping these plants upright. And in terms of reproduction, most people have seen how big a strawberry patch can get when the roots send up new starters everywhere!

In addition to marveling at the many functions roots perform, I am also in awe of their strength.  I have often struggled over a huge root attached to tiny, pathetic plant.  Sometimes I’ve just given up and hacked the plant off leaving the stubborn root in the ground.  The power of roots is evident in pushed up sidewalks, cracked foundations, and snapped water lines.  So consider this before you plant on oak tree up against your house!

Roots also like to chase water.  In very hot places, they will grow very long to reach groundwater.  The longest living root ever seen was almost 200 feet long along the wall of an open-pit mine in Arizona.  Some trees and shrubs often grow roots that are 100 feet long.  Can you imagine how long it must take for water to get from the roots up to the leaves? That’s something to think about!

Roots are also important for another reason – some of them are edible! Why do you think it’s called a root vegetable? (Note: Some root crops are actually buried stems). Carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes, and more! These roots are delicious and have earned an important place in our kitchens and stomachs. 

So when you start pulling up your kale or you munch into your next carrot – think about roots and their mysterious lives deep in the soil!

Submitted by Kate Wilkins, AmeriCorps VISTA at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

March 24, 2014

Meet Computer Clubhouse members, Maria & Beatrice

Meet Maria and Beatrice. They are members of our Youth Education program’s Computer Clubhouse.

Maria has been a member since she was 8 years old. Next year she will be graduating high school and will no longer be a part of the program. Maria’s plans are to attend college and study engineering.
Beatrice joined the Clubhouse last summer.She is a freshman in high school and has hopes of being an engineer when she graduates and goes on to college. 

I am very proud of them both.

I selected both of these girls to attend Teen Summit 2014 in Boston this summer. I chose them because of their participation in the Clubhouse, above average grades in school, upbeat and friendly personalities and enthusiasm to learn, explore and create with the use of technology. They are prime role models to the younger youth in the program.

This will be Maria and Beatrice first time in Boston and the very first time Maria has been on a plane. This will be my first time attending Teen Summit as well. As a bunch of newbies, we are excited, anxious, and can hardly wait for this new adventure!

Hello. My name is Beatrice. I am participating in Teen Summit 2014, I am one of the two members in SFBFS’ Computer Clubhouse chosen to go. I am eager to meet new people and motivated to try new things. Boston, here I come!

Hello. My name is Maria. I have the privilege to go to Boston and attend Teen Summit 2014. I am very happy to have this opportunity, work with other youth from Clubhouse all around the world and learn new  idea to bring back our Clubhouse.

Submitted by Kelly Ann Adams, Computer Clubhouse Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

March 17, 2014

Sherrie's Story

A few weeks ago I sat down for lunch with a friend at a local cafĂ©. We took turns sharing updates about our lives; I talked about my recent work projects, he shared his family’s recent trip to Disneyland, I told him about a new run route I liked to go on then he interjected and said, “I should go running.” A simple thought, but it stuck with me because it highlighted the awareness that we have about things we should be doing and the disconnect with making it happen. Now, I’m not judging him for exercising or not and I believe everyone has the right to make their own decisions, but the point is that we as humans should feel fortunate that we are able to distinguish our options and choose one path or the other. For some people there isn't always a second option. Such was the case last year for Sherrie Kelley.

In March of 2013 Sherrie Kelley was over 100 pounds overweight. She felt sluggish, tired all the time and didn't have any energy. “I felt terrible,” she said. Following the advice of a friend, Sherrie went to the doctor to get some blood work done and was told her cholesterol was out of whack, her thyroid wasn't working properly and she was real close to being diabetic. If that wasn't scary enough, the doctor went on to explain potential outcomes of diabetes-hair loss, heart disease, early death. “That right there got me going,” she said. There were no more options for Sherrie. She had to lose the weight.

Sherrie didn't need to hear anymore. She promptly heeded her doctor’s advice and began doing all she could to lose weight. She started exercising and joined Weight Watchers, whom she credits for greatly aiding her fight against obesity, and learned the importance of eating in moderation and drinking water. For those who think it isn't that easy to transform your life, Sherrie would like to say that you’re right. “Before I’d grab a bag of chips and eat the whole bag. That would be my dinner. You can’t do that if trying to lose weight. You have to moderate your portions, exercise and drink water for a healthy lifestyle. It’s a lot of hard work but what you’re working towards is a life-changing attitude.”  

I met Sherrie last year when she began attending the gardening classes at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. By this point she had already lost 100 pounds and had her eyes set on an additional ten. She started taking the classes because she wanted to learn how to grow her own food in an effort to save some money.

It wasn't until nearly eight months after her first class that she shared with me her story, an act which is a testament to her modesty and humble spirit. She told me all about her kale smoothies, reduced protein portions, her love of butternut squash and how her new garden is now producing enough food to share with her neighbors. “I made them some squash and they loved it too!” What I understand now is how dedicated Sherrie is to improving the lives of others. In fact, when I asked her about writing this article she said agreed without hesitation and offered her assistance to anyone else who may be dealing with a similar struggle. “If I can help one person to lose weight or avoid diabetes, I’d feel blessed. But you have to want to take the weight off. There has to be a want there. If you have the commitment, it’s absolutely possible.”

Submitted by Greg Norrish, Garden Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.        

March 13, 2014

Working at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

Working at Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services isn't just a job or something to's a way of life. It is life. The employees here care deeply for their client's successes.  

Anytime there is a client who has accomplished a passing score on a prep test, we celebrate with the client like it was our own success. It is great to see client's form their own bonds with each other like a team. When one of their own team members is feeling down, they will rally around that team member and truly help where it is needed.  

The people at Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services never pretend to care, they do care. They really are a family who shares and learns together. I can honestly say that I am proud to be a part of this family and share in the success of clients. 

Submitted by Shaylene Drayer, Parent Education Program Assistant

March 7, 2014

My Grandmother's Jacket

My grandmother grew up on a farm in North Dakota, the second youngest of eleven children. She worked hard her entire life and moved to Sacramento in the 1940s where she married my grandfather and raised three children.

She ranked church and family as her priorities in life and her 4 grandchildren brought her great joy. My grandmother and I enjoyed a close relationship from the moment I was born. She attended every school play, recital and horse show, always encouraging and always supportive.

A devout Catholic, my grandmother became excited when learning I landed a job with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) in 2007. She appreciated Father Dan Madigan’s work as the founder of the organization and often would clean out her sparse, but fashionable, closet to donate shoes or a pair of pants to support SFBFS’ Clothing program. My grandmother attended the groundbreaking ceremony of SFBFS’ Education & Technology Center in 2010 and always asked about the families we served in Sacramento. Praying daily we could end the suffering of those without food and clothing, hoping through the education and support SFBFS provides, families could change their own lives for the better.

My grandmother’s passing in December, at age 93, was an incredibly crushing experience. While I felt relief she would no longer be suffering, I spent weeks feeling a part of my core would be forever gone.  

Sharing her clothing with the less fortunate seemed the obvious choice when it came time to clean out her closet. My mom and I carefully bagged each article of clothing, including a jacket my dad bought her during a trip to China. A fan of all things that sparkled, she adored this one-of-a-kind gold coat, covered in sequins.

In January, SFBFS’ Guest Services Coordinator helped me unload the bags of clothing from my car and comforted me as I shared the story of my loss. Returning to work helped dull the pain, but I continued to find periods of time where I felt lost, time I would have spent visiting with my grandmother each week.

On January 29, running late for a meeting, I turned the corner to enter the Education & Technology Center and something caught my eye. A young girl, older woman in a wheelchair and woman wearing a familiar coat caught my attention. I introduced myself and asked where the woman got the jacket. She said the three had visited SFBFS’ Clothing program that morning and each left with a coat. The young girl, wearing another familiar clothing item, beamed with excitement. She shared that the cold weather had been hard on her aunt and these coats would make a difference. And she also loved her mother’s new sparkly coat.

I shared the story of my grandmother’s coat and all three expressed appreciation for the donation. I asked the trio if I could take a photo to show my family and after one picture, they insisted I take one of all four of us.

The story of my grandmother’s jacket and photo of the family I met gave my mother goose-bumps. It warmed my sister’s heart. It motivated my father to clean out his closet to help those in need.

I encourage everyone to donate when they can. Clothing, food, educational materials and school supplies donated to SFBFS directly help those who need it most. I can’t guarantee you will see the items you donate on a person walking by, but I can guarantee that each item will find a way into the life of someone who would thank you for it.

Submitted by Kelly Siefkin, Communications & Development Director