All day Monday through Friday, I’m “the lady who does the referrals.” I’m called “Catherine,” “Kathleen,” “Cathy,” “the hunger hotline” and was once even called “the turkey hookup.” (I don’t do that by the way.) I go by many names at work but the job I do each day is essentially the same. As the Hunger Lifeline Coordinator for the Capital Area Food Bank, no matter what I’m called, no matter what the request, my job is to listen and help the callers find conveniently located sources of food.
The most dramatic change that I’ve experienced is the 173 percent increase in callers this fall over the same period in 2010. There is also a wider range of callers, including active military, veterans, seniors, people experiencing tragedies or job loss, and even those who formerly donated to the food bank, but are now in need of food. These clients all have different requests, and I always do my best to help them, whether it’s directing them to fresh produce, canned or dried goods. And, I always listen.
Sometimes when conducting an initial intake over the phone I can tell the caller really appreciates just having someone to talk to. Don’t get me wrong, these clients need food desperately, but those who are struggling through these situations alone often need to explain their circumstances to someone. One time before I even got a chance to call a client back with information about where she could receive food, she told me how much it helped just to have someone listen.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to look at anything other than the big picture, the volume of calls the Hunger Lifeline is answering, but I have to remind myself that callers are individuals in need and not merely numbers. To their credit our volunteers reinforce this important aspect of our work. If you’re interested in volunteering to answer the Hunger Lifeline, please click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to learn how to sign up. By taking the time to listen to our clients, you will completely turn their days around. And, who knows, it may turn your day around, as well.