By E. Ashley Rooney
Bad things can happen to good people. People can lose their beloved homes. People can lose their jobs, their savings, their children or their spouses. Sometimes we do something about it, and many times we don’t, although we wish we had.
My mother told me that actions speak louder than words. When the actions continue for years, they can be even louder– much louder– than checkbooks.
For twenty-seven years, Carolyn Wortman has volunteered in the Lexington Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry- right here at Church of Our Redeemer.. She organizes, shops, advises, listens and helps people survive life’s blows.
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. ” 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. 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 15 years ago. Now she is even more involved, shopping, coordinating and speaking about the needs of the pantry. Each week there are one or two new families in the pantry, although it now only accepts Lexington and residents of surrounding towns (i.e., Winchester and Lincoln) that don’t have a food pantry, People with shopping baskets, boxes and even suitcases came streaming in my most recent visit. They poured their coffee, got a piece of pastry, and sat and talked to each other. It was like a social gathering.
The pantry supports 70-75 families per week. Ethnic background does not count, and age is not important. 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.”
One 60-year-old Lexington woman had been too ill for the past two years to come and stand outside “in this chilly wet weather waiting for my turn. But this week I’m desperate. I’ve run out money, there’s two weeks left before I get my SSDI check ”
Another client, who was born in Lexington, worked for the town for forty-five years. She said, ” The times have changed. When I retired, it was all right. But now our cost-of-living increases can’t keep up with our expenses..”
The pantry and its clients depend on donations. Many of the local churches and temples collect on a regular basis.
Carolyn said, “So far I can run the pantry on $51,000 annually, but food prices are going up. Luckily, the town has been most generous in its support, and we are so grateful. We will need more cash donations, however, especially if our numbers keep increasing. ”
Yes, Mom was right. Our actions do speak louder than our words.
For more information please visit www.lexingtonfoodpantry.wordpress.com