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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not Your Typical Organization


Not Your Typical Organization

For those of you who don’t live in Indianapolis there is an organization here called Second Helpings.  This is a charitable organization that rescues food from various establishments such as grocery stores, restaurants as well as private donations.

This food is then prepared for group homes, nurseries, shelters, community outreach programs, etc. known as partners to Second Helpings.  Every week day a flood of volunteer’s show up every morning at about 8:00am to wash, cut, assemble, season and cook food for these partners.  Right around 9:00am more volunteers show up to load this food into delivery vehicles who then take them to these partners of Second Helpings.  The place seems to run itself but, in reality, it takes a lot of hard work on the part of the permanent staff and they do a fabulous job.

 My participation started with a conversation I had with a lovely woman at my church during the passing of the peace right in the middle of the service.  We continued our conversation during coffee hour, her name is Priscilla and I was telling her my background and that a lot of folks had helped me when I was laid off and that I was looking for a way to give back.  Priscilla mentioned that she had volunteered at Second Helpings in the past and recommended I investigate this particular charity.  “Besides” she said “it’ll get you exposed to the city and the charitable and culinary community”.

She was right, I now volunteer on Thursdays helping out in the kitchen and on Fridays as a driver delivering food with my sister Cristal.  It’s tremendously rewarding and I’m making new friends.  This is the type of an organization I would be interested in starting in another city or state after graduation from culinary school.  I’m not sure I’ll stay in Indiana but you never know?

Second Helpings also provides culinary training free of charge for deserving students who have fallen on hard times.  This training is recognized by the North American Accreditation Association.  This recognition allows Second Helpings to align themselves with Ivy Tech Community College’s culinary program.  The class, which lasts 10 weeks, provides the students’ completion in a prerequisite course called “Basic Food Theory”.  Students can choose to enter Ivy Tech’s culinary program or get a job within the industry after course completion.  It’s a wonderful endeavor and I’m proud to be able to help.

Of course things happen along the way to make our work a little more exciting.  One day just before the snow started to drop late in the fall season, I noticed a new partner on our Friday delivery list.  It was nestled in the middle of our route and wouldn’t add too much time to our driving so I paid little heed to the addition.

Since I’m not real familiar with the streets of Indy, I decided to use my little GPS navigator to find our new partners address.  As we’re driving along Cristal and I notice the area is becoming a bit run down and undesirable.  We pull up to the new delivery and notice it is a large residence turned into what we thought to be a group home.  It was painted bluish-green probably 10-15 years ago.  The front porch was crooked and an uneasy feeling started to settle deep in my stomach.

I realized making the delivery to the front of the house would be dangerous because of the high volume of traffic.  Cristal pointed out an alley-way in the back.  We quickly swing the van around to the alley and pulled into the driveway at the rear of the home.  We saw one car parked to the left side of the house and that was all…there were cement steps leading to a lone red door, again, these steps were crooked and lacked hand rails for support.  This concerned me as the steps were icy and I knew I’d have my hands full of food while walking up them.

Cristal and I had questioned one another regarding the red door.  “Is that it?” she asked.  I said “There’s only one way to find out”.  I approached the red door with a certain amount of trepidation and wonderment as to what may lie inside.  Will there be a man wearing the skin of dead people like in the movie “Silence of the Lambs”?  What if there is green slime or worse yet, blood oozing from the walls like “The Amityville Horror”.  Oh well here goes.  I take my gloves off while approaching the red door.  It felt cold on my knuckles and I could doubly feel the sting of knocking perhaps signaling the pain and impending doom that awaits us just beyond the threshold.

I knock and knock again, there is no answer.  I knock one more time as the door slowly swings open from the impact of my hand - I then enter the door which is unlocked and yell out “Second Helpings – is anyone here?”  I see that there are no lights on in the house making the scene eerie.  It’s overcast outside which lends to the murky mood inside.  At this moment all I want to do is leave.  My sister nudges me and points to a chair with a head barely showing near the top.  I ask this person if they can help us only to receive steely silence in return.  Hmmmm…..I look behind us to check for zombies that may be quietly and slowly surrounding us – nothing there.  I hear the low din of voices and once again announce our presence only to see a faint flickering of light dancing on the walls, it was the TV.  I turn to Cristal and all she could do was shrug her shoulders and shake her head.  It’s time to scram which we did.  We left the food on the counter of the kitchen and slowly and quietly stepped to the door with purpose.  

 I was totally creeped out and to this day my sister and I refer to our new stop as the “creepy place”.  Since then, we have returned every week and have been greeted properly by the care staff of one very polite woman in her mid to late 30’s.  She graciously greets us at the door and thanks us every week by giving us blessings and calling us angels.  I like her a lot and am sorry we had a mysterious experience within her establishment.  Oh well, it makes for a good story eh?

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the great info, Mark! I've been looking for a worthwhile organization that might be a good fit for me. As a kid, I helped my mom deliver lunches through Meals on Wheels. I remember how excited and thankful each household was when we dropped off all the food. That memory has stuck with me for years, and Second Helpings may be just the place I've been looking for. Hopefully, they have a need for someone on my day off, but I'll certainly give them a call to find out.

    Thanks, again. Blog on!