Last Friday, the day before our annual Harvest Dinner Fundraiser, two men walked into the Food Bank looking for Catholic Community Services. Staff & volunteers were rushing around trying to get everything together to load up the truck to take everything down to the event site.
Someone handed me a piece of paper asking me if I knew the directions of the place these two men needed to go. I got up from my computer and went to tell them how to get to where they were going. The two looked tired, unshaven, and unclean. They had a scrappy little dog with them and some dirty blankets. I told them how to get to where they were going.
One asked if they could please sit down. They had been walking all day and just needed to rest for a few minutes. I invited them to have a seat at our kitchen table. As they sat, they began to unravel their story…
They were from Spokane Washington, about a 5 hour drive from Seattle, on the Eastern side of the state. A friend had asked them if they wanted to drive to Seattle for a little visit with her for a couple of days. They obliged. Upon arrival, they needed to stop to buy food for their little dog. She took them to Petco and said she had to run an errand and would be right back. They waited for her in the parking lot. She never returned. Without any money, they ended up sleeping in the parking lot of the pet store. When morning came, they walked and found their way to the I-90 Bridge. Tired and hungry, they found a gas station. Nobody would help them. Finally, a woman told them they could go to Catholic Community Services and somebody would help them. Not being from Seattle, they had no idea where this was.
They told me, people were mean to them. They just wanted to get home. I gave them food to eat, water to drink, and told them I would call Catholic Community Services to make sure this is really the place for them to go. Voice mail after voice mail, no human would answer their phone. I called other social service agencies. Again, more voice mail. What a busy phone day everyone seemed to be having! I called my friend Donna, a lobbyist with the Catholic Conference. She told me to hang tight. She would make some calls.
I went out and found Juan, one of our board members who volunteers with us to give food to our homeless clients. “Juan, I have two men inside who are hungry. Will you please put together a couple of bags of food for them?” I went back inside and told the men I was waiting on a return call. They were free to stay, rest and eat. Krishna, one of our volunteers gave them hot coffee to drink. Darya, a staff person warmed up some cooked chicken from lunch. Then Juan came in with two big bags of food and gave one to each. The younger man looked in his bag. His eyes big with delight, and exclaimed,“Pop Tarts! They gave us Pop Tarts! I haven’t had Pop Tarts in years!” He nudged his friend to look in his bag to see if he had Pop Tarts too. His friend smiled and said, “You all have been so nice to us. Nobody else treated us this way.” I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Thank me after we get you home.”