Finding Ourselves Through Service to Others
Service at Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes provides a meaningful opportunity to connect with fellow community members. Whatever preconceptions someone may have about "the hungry" of our community, they are challenged and changed as a result of direct interactions with the diverse individuals that participate in our food assistance programs. When we connect with individuals with lives different than ours - the man with intellectual disabilities who has been on his own since his mother passed away in his teenage years, the recovering stroke victim living in a residential hotel, the recently housed cancer-survivor veteran, the retired farm worker, the grandmother living on a fixed income - our hearts are opened, our minds are changed, and our views are transformed.
For some of us, service at PVLF touches our hearts deeply and becomes an integral part of our lives. We were blessed with an extraordinary AmeriCorps volunteer, Sara Muñoz, this year. She recently completed her term of service and open-heartedly shared with us the impact that volunteering at PVLF has had on her life. With her permission, we share Sara's story here. Her experience truly illustrates Gandhi's observation that "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others."
Friends at Loaves and Fishes -
Thank you for all the wonderful memories and experiences you've shared with me. I've had an amazing time here working towards bettering our community. It sounds 'cheezy' but this place has quite literally changed my life, and I'm so grateful!
I got to know Loaves & Fishes a number of years ago during a much more challenging point in my life, when I was entirely on my own and lacking basic necessities, among other things. I was wrongly nervous to come by for lunch when it was suggested to me. I left here so impressed by the warm atmosphere, delicious food, and the amount of respect that I received. I knew I wanted to get involved at a better time.
The chance came several months later, in the form of a work exchange pantry volunteer opportunity, and then again through an AmeriCorps volunteer services position. With the volunteer stipend income from these programs, I was able to stabilize myself, and with the incredible support of everyone I've been able to make a HUGE improvement in my on-going social anxieties, and become generally more confident, comfortable, social, and happy. I know that I am not the most talkative person here, but I've gladly spoken here more than I did throughout my past school and work years combined.
I really enjoyed the many different and awesome people I've worked with, but I also strongly feel a connection to the wonderful people we serve. I feel I can relate to them. In them I see myself, my dad, my agriculture-working aunts, uncles, and cousins, generations of my family, and my goofy 'van-livin' friends.
Here we lovingly provide food, but we also provide judgment-free kindness, friendship, support, and referrals in a warm, welcoming setting. A place like this is so hard to come by, especially when you identify yourself with a marginalized or oppressed group. Being a part of this organization has been a beautiful experience that brought me here with a smile every weekday. Thank you all for everything you did to make this experience great!