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Small Town, Big Heart (Lompoc, CA)

Two weeks ago, David from Lompoc Food Pantry Catholic Charities was kind enough to give me a tour of their food pantry. As I encountered staff and volunteers, I was struck by the joy they put into their work and the commitment they have, not only to their mission, but to serve people in need. Clearly, staff and volunteers love what they do. What was also clear, is the gratitude they feel toward community members. Over and over again, I heard about the generosity of Lompoc residents and how grateful they are to belong to a community that has such a “big heart.”

While we walked, David shared story after story about people they’ve helped: working families experiencing a crisis and unable to buy food; a single mom, saving her kids from an abusive environment, showing up on their steps with nothing but the clothes on their backs; veterans who served their country with honor, struggling to buy food; young enlisted men and women trying to make ends meet. The need in Lompoc is high. The stories all had a common thread – they started with heartbreak and ended with hope.

Peppered between stories of those in need, were stories about the generosity of Lompoc residents: the girl scouts created “birthday in a bag” for kids whose families can’t afford to put on a birthday party; dedicated volunteers, many of them 70+ years of age, working tirelessly to get food into the pantry; beautiful quilted blankets donated by Quilters Etc.; families showing up with boxes of food and clothing; fresh produce and other goods provided by local grocery stores and businesses; cash donations and gift cards from anonymous donors.  The generosity of the Lompoc community is truly inspiring.

As our conversation came to a close, David gave me an overview of services offered to residents that demonstrate financial need. These include, among other things, food, clothing, hygiene products for adults and children, pet food, and when funds allow, assistance with utilities and shelter. They also refer people to organizations that can provide additional support. For a full list of services go to their site: http://lompocfoodpantry.org/about/

YK_072611_FNM_Turkey_032.tifIn addition, every year, twice a year, they’ve handed out uncooked turkeys to needy families so that they too can take part in holiday celebrations. This year, however, there’s a little uncertainty around this yearly tradition. The local foundation that filled this need in the past, cannot provide funding this year and four of their eight-hour a day volunteers have had to stop working due to personal reasons. They need volunteers and they need turkeys. I asked if they were worried they may not be able to get the 500 turkeys they need for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They paused for a moment and then told me they have faith; the Lompoc community is generous and kind.

Before leaving, I took a final walk through the food pantry. As I stood between several food shelves, some full, others partially empty, the words of Mahatma Gandhi came to mind: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Then, I thought back to the stories David and staff shared about the generous contributions made by Lompoc community members. This truly is a kind and generous community. They are right to have faith.

If you’re able to volunteer and/or donate frozen turkeys, please reach out to them. Monetary contributions are also appreciated. From now till the end of December, a private donor has agreed to match the donation – dollar for dollar. You can reach Catholic Charities at 805-736-6226 or visit them at their location: 325 North 2nd Street, Lompoc. 

Thanks for joining me today. This is the first in a series of stories I’ll be writing about the work done by local nonprofits. Best to you and yours!

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