Kara Hooyman saw the faces of those our community terms “poor,” “struggling” and “needy” while volunteering at The Salvation Army Food Pantry. As a Marian University Sophomore Nursing Student in Associate Professor Chris Laurent’s NRS’s Clinical class, Kara expected to donate 4 hours of her time in the food pantry, stocking shelves and escorting clients up and down aisles of food and hygiene items, contributed by community. What she didn’t expect was her reaction.
“Seeing people walk through the pantry, appreciative of the smallest things like meat I’d think nothing of getting at the store and using in one meal,” Kara says, ”yet, when I pulled it out of the food pantry freezer for them, they’d be so amazed that it was all theirs to take.” Kara says it was their gratitude and happiness in spite of their circumstances she wasn’t prepared for.
“I helped a man through the pantry and he started talking, telling me he used to be a chef until he got cancer,” Kara remembers. Unable to work while undergoing chemo treatments, the man used the pantry food to help his family survive. “He was grateful and told me he knew a lot of ways to make it last.”
Kara saw the community’s generosity, too. Donations came in for food and hygiene supplies. Seeing hygiene supplies come in, get shelved and then vanish in a few minutes really moved her. “I looked at the hotel-sized soaps and shampoos people were taking and thought that’s not going to last them and then what will they do?” A nursing student, Kara knew the effects not having hygiene products can have on health. Seeing the need outweighing the supply really hurt and frustrated her.
It was pantry volunteer Vicky Rabe who urged Kara to do something to help. When Kara left, she was inspired by all she’d seen and heard. Determined to find a way to stock the hygiene shelves, she spread the word to students, staff and family, asking for help. She and boyfriend Coy Paulson took the funds they collected to the Dollar Tree Store. When a staff member asked why they were clearing all the toothbrushes from the shelves, Kara shared her story. Word spread through the store. “In the checkout line, people handed me money and told me they wanted to help,” Kara said.
Kara returned to The Salvation Army three weeks after she volunteered, her vehicle filled with 165 lbs. of full sized bottles of shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap. Pantry Coordinator Kurt Schuller estimates it’s enough to last a week. More than the gratitude The Salvation Army shared, Kara holds the appreciation and smiles she collected from clients during her day in the pantry, and one little girl in particular. “She came through the pantry – she was so happy, she smiled at everyone.” It was a smile, and an experience, Kara will never forget.
Sidebar: The Salvation Army Food Pantry is located at 237 N. Macy St. Fond du Lac County’s largest marketplace-style food pantry is stocked with community donations and ‘staffed’ by compassionate volunteers from all walks of life. To learn more, call 923-8220, go to www.salvationarmywi.org/wum/fdl or like The Salvation Army of Fond du Lac Facebook page.
Article originally posted by The Salvation Army and published with permission.