By Ashley Rooney
For 25 years, Carolyn Wortman (9:30 Redeemer) has volunteered in the Lexington Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry. She organizes, shops, advises, listens and helps people survive life’s blows.
One client described Carolyn as “a very devoted person. She gets there every Saturday morning through rain, snow and sleet. She carries the ball, greeting everyone with a smile and trying to help them.”
According to Carolyn, “My parents were people who always took the time to help others. They didn’t have lots of money, but they gave their time.” A registered nurse, Carolyn worked for 28 years at Massachusetts General Hospital in pediatrics and then continued her work with children at two other institutions.
In the fall of 1990, Lexington’s churches and synagogues opened the food pantry at the Church of Our Redeemer to help those whose budgets were less than adequate to purchase food. The second week it was open, Carolyn volunteered to help. “I just kept coming every Saturday except when I was at my summer cottage in Oqunquit, ME. Over the years I got to know the people and what they liked. There is one woman who really wants beef stew; another who wants All Bran. There’s a sauerkraut crowd and the spinach lovers. The more I volunteered, the more satisfaction I found.”
Carolyn retired from nursing nearly 13 years ago. She reads, cooks, and is learning to quilt at the community center. Phinneus aka Finn, her Westie, accompanies her as she shops for the pantry, sets it up, and runs it. Each week there are one or two new families in the pantry, although it only accepts Lexington and residents of surrounding towns (i.e., Winchester and Lincoln) that don’t have a food pantry. People with shopping carts, boxes and even suitcases came streaming in my most recent visit. Waiting for their turn, they sit and talk in this multi-lingual social gathering.
Today, many people retire from their job to pursue a favorite hobby, use their frequent flier miles to see those world-renowned sights, live a fast-paced life filled with adventures. Then there are those of us who return to that former candy-striped, merit badge-earning self to discover new and distinctive ways to connect to our world, our town and our community. Believing still in Kennedy‘s “Ask Not” challenge, we visualize obliterating barriers between people.
Volunteers are the heart of the pantry. Carolyn has them well organized. The Friday sorters are a weekly cadre; volunteers from Temple Isaiah, Hancock, Methodist and Sacred Heart staff Saturday along with LHS students earning their community service and others who just want to be there.