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