My eye-opening summer at Food for Others

My journey with Food for Others began in 2009, when I was going through a really tough time in my life.

I had been in a traumatic event which put me into a depression and someone suggested that trying to give back to my community might help distract me from everything I had going on at the time. So I took the suggestion and reached out to FFO to become a volunteer.

After spending six weeks and more than 150 hours volunteering at FFO – I still can’t begin to tell you how humbling the experience was.

The exposure to all the people in our local community who don’t have access to basics which I took for granted was shocking. I saw families with children who were beyond thrilled to get something as simple as a bite-sized Snickers candy bar. Each day, I saw a line of families waiting for a bagful of groceries, just so they could feed their families dinner that very evening.

I still recall one elderly gentleman who was laid off after being a janitor for nearly 25 years. On that particular day, it was raining heavily. He had traveled from Arlington to Fairfax by combining multiple free bus passes. Then, he walked in the pouring rain to FFO to request milk, eggs and a few other basics.

Unfortunately, he didn’t qualify for the milk and eggs but we provided him with 2 full bags of other nonperishable foods. However, after knowing how far he traveled and how poor the weather was – I felt compelled to help him as much as I personally could.

I invited him into my car so I could drop him off at the metro, and as he exited my vehicle I gave him $20 for the metro fare and money for him to purchase whatever additional groceries he needed. I still remember how he instantly his eyes filled with tears of joy, as if a prayer had been answered.

Since that day, I always try to remember to be grateful for everything I have, because this truly was the most humbling experience of my life. There are so many families who don’t have access some of the most basic things that most of us take for granted: food, transportation. And many of the families I saw had infants or very young children.

10 years later, I had the ability to host a food drive at my company. We hosted a car show for nearly 500 attendees and requested that each individual bring a food donation from FFO’s most needed items list. Together, we donated a little over 3,000 pounds of food. This was another truly humbling moment, and it all began with being open and willing to volunteer at FFO years ago.

So I leave you with this: if you’re even considering being a volunteer or have any desire to help people in need – don’t think twice. You won’t regret it. Something that may take a few hours out of your week will give you memories and gratitude for a lifetime.

Rick Goyal spent 150 hours volunteering at FFO.