In a warehouse in northwest Dallas, Services of Hope volunteer Dana Bush spends a few hours moving perishable items into freezers and refrigerators, cleaning the food prep area at the back of the room, and sweeping up dust and debris from the concrete floors. Industrial fans circulate the air in the metal room as sunlight peeks through ventilation fans and a skylight in the 20-foot-tall ceiling. On a folding table, a decades-old AM/FM clock radio is dialed in to a local gospel station.
For several years Bush has managed the pantry and storehouse for Services of Hope (SOH). The Royal Lane Distribution Center – the agency’s new location, which opened in February – is the primary storehouse for items donated from dozens of regional and national companies, then distributed to needy families in Dallas communities. Each month, Bush and a few additional volunteers assemble bags and boxes – a week’s worth of food – for 35-40 families and hand them out at the food pantry events SOH hosts once or twice a month. As a strategic partner of Transformance, SOH also provides on-the-spot counseling for 5-10 individuals each month at their Dallas office.
Bush says the hard work pays off when she sees smiles from the people she serves.
“It’s rewarding. It makes me feel good to help my community,” she said. “I take it seriously.”
Throughout the month, Bush oversees donation intake at the distribution center. Each item is weighed and counted as it comes in, then stored appropriately on the shelves or in fridges and freezers. SOH trucks and vans drive throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, picking up donated items from key vendors, then returning to the distribution center for processing. Some donations require a little extra work: a recent delivery from Wal-Mart took Bush and her team four days to unpack, catalog and store.
Weighing and cataloging items is important to SOH business practices and partnerships. Each family may receive between 100-150 pounds of food and other items each year at an average cost of 18 cents per pound. Donated items keep costs low and enable SOH to feed a single family for a week for as little as $20.
The way Bush sees it, SOH doesn’t simply provide food – the nonprofit is providing a means to help families move out of poverty to financial stability.
“You need food to get the energy to go get a job,” she said. “I’ve been there and I know the situation they’re in. This is an important part of the process.”
Bush, a mother and grandmother, has a soft spot for families with children. When she’s at a food pantry event, she takes the time to inquire about the ages and gender of younger family members, then includes kid-friendly treats like juice or granola bars or a small toy in the bags. It’s her way of letting the little ones know there are people who care and are willing to help.
The retired housekeeper and cook says she’s enjoying the time she can contribute to helping Dallas families. During a Thanksgiving event in 2012, she joined SOH as a volunteer and jumped right in. A few months later, when SOH President and CEO Dr. Daniel Prescott announced the opening of the food pantry, Bush was asked to be involved. Today, she is thankful for the opportunities to brighten the days of others as they brighten her.
“I love it when we’re out in the community,” she said. “The people we meet are grateful and thankful. They realize they are helping us out in a way, too.”
Learn more at www.servicesofhope.org.