kindness activist

kindness activist

Friday, April 8, 2016

Food Bank Kindness

This is Tatyana
“I am certain that if we all find a place to serve, we can change someone's life and make a difference in this world together.”  This amazing sentiment was said by Tatyana Metzenseva, a beautiful woman with an even more beautiful heart. 

And Tatyana has found her place to serve – both figuratively and literally.  Almost every Sunday she volunteers for two shifts at the Potter’s House of Denver, a free food bank that operates under the “Food Bank of the Rockies” umbrella.   And many of the 800 – 1,000 people she helps there have an instant connection to her, because, you see, Tatyana understands not only their LANGUAGE, but their EXPERIENCE.  Some of them recently arrived in Colorado from Ukraine, which they left to flee the war, and do not speak any English.

Well, Tatyana’s family immigrated to the USA from Ukraine in 1996 when she was 9 years old.  At that time she, like so many people she serves at the food bank now, spoke only Russian.  American schools not only taught her English, but because she, like her parents, is hard of hearing they also taught her American Sign Language.  This makes her a perfect fit for helping not only the Russian speaking people needing food each Sunday, but also the Deaf and hard of hearing people!  As she told me, “I decided to volunteer at the Food Bank because I was informed that there are many Russian individuals attending there who don't speak English. Right then, I knew I wanted to get involved and help out. I know what it's like to have language barrier, and if I could help, I would.” 

Tatyana working at the sign in desk
Tatyana explained that she volunteers as a Team Lead at the sign in desk, where she has loyal Russian, Deaf, and hard of hearing customers, along with a diverse group of people from other cultural and ethnic backgrounds, like Middle Eastern and African.  She, along with a team of around 5 other volunteers, helps them choose from a menu of food that is available that week.  The menu contains things such as:  non-perishable items like rice and pasta, a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, canned fruit and vegetables, cereals and other breakfast things, peanut butter, jelly, etc.   The thing that I found fabulous was that the customers have 3 options of meat every week (such as chicken, pork chops, ground beef, or fish) of which they are allowed to receive 2.  Customers work with someone at the sign in desk to choose from the menu, and other volunteers in a warehouse bag the items.   When people pick up their bags at the warehouse, they also have other things they can help themselves to like salad greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, pastries, etc., which vary depending on what is available. 

First off, I LOVE the fact that these people are getting healthy, hearty food to eat.  And secondly, they are getting service with Tatyana’s amazing SMILE!  I can see why the Russian speakers love coming to talk with her!  In fact, I would imagine that a lot of them would want to just sit down, drink a cup of tea, and CHAT!  I think it is interesting that some of the older Russian people she helps do not understand the concept of “volunteering” and Tatyana has to explain to them what it means to GIVE of your time like she and the other people at the food bank do.  “I often have to explain that people take time out of their life to serve others not for the money, but out of the goodness of their hearts,” she said. 

Photo from a successful "Feed the Children" campaign at the Food Bank
One word Tatyana uses to describe her volunteering at the food bank is REWARDING.  She said, “I believe that we are in this life to serve one another. To me, if we are not serving others, then we are not fulfilling our purpose in this life.”  And the word she used to describe how the customers at the Food Bank react is GRATEFUL.   She explained it so well, “The way their faces light up when they first find out you speak their language. The communication barrier ceases to exist and they can communicate freely to tell us how we can serve them. There are people that cry tears of happiness because of how grateful they are.”

Tatyana and her cousin with the Potter's House Food Bank van
Tatyana, you are TRULY a Kindness Activist.  You give of your time, your energy, and your heart.  I know that you help to make these peoples’ lives much happier not only by ensuring they have food to eat, but a person they can talk with who understands.  When I told Tatyana how lucky and blessed those people were to have her there to support them, she summed everything up with: “I am blessed to be a blessing.”

Please visit this website to learn more about The Potter’s House of Denver Food Bank - The Potter's House of Denver Food Bank   
You can find them on Facebook here Potters House Denver on Facebook and on Twitter @TPHDenver

And if you, like me, are inspired by Tatyana and her giving heart, please look around your own community and see where YOU can pitch in.  There are opportunities to be kind all around you – just take a peek and jump in!  

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