Friday, June 4, 2010

Gleaning the Harvest

Students and parents from St. Joseph
Catholic School in Lake Orion pack boxes for Gleaners.

For a "short week" it's been pretty darn long.

I did not want to volunteer this week. A quick trip to visit a friend in need and working some overtime at the OP had left me drained. I was just plain tired and wanted to relax. My husband even kidded that I should "Stephen Glass it." For those of you who don't know, Stephen Glass is a notorious reporter turned author who falsified articles.

"Just make up some organizations and write about what you did," Rob said, laughing.

But I couldn't skip out. It's not that I'm trying to portray myself as a martyr, it's just that I'm anal retentive.

I trudged into Gleaners in Pontiac Thursday morning before work where I met some friendly staff who showed me around the warehouse and set me up. My lame attitude quickly turned around — these are some of the most friendly people I have volunteered with in a long time.

Denise Leduc gave me a tour of the grounds and talked about Gleaners' mission. In one of the warehouse rooms where food is sorted, a colorful mural — painted by a 19-year-old local — depicts a scene of food production and distribution. One scene is a replica of the famous Jean-Fran├žois Millet production of three peasants who glean a field of stray grains of wheat. It was pretty impressive.

Biblically, it was a custom in Israel for farmers to leave some of the crops for the poorer sects of society to glean the harvest. And thus, the name Gleaners. The organization takes what is left from society and gives it to the less fortunate.

I have never been without food. I may have felt a rumble in my stomach on occasions, but there was always something to eat. It still shocks me how in a society of decadence, we allow our peers to go without. The thought seriously makes me question some useless purchases. Do I really need another pair of peep-toe heels?

Each year, Gleaners distributes millions of pounds of food to those in need. More than two-hundred-and-fifty thousand kids in Southeastern Michigan qualify for free and reduced lunches, said Denise, adding that Gleaners makes sure that these children get food on weekends and during the summer break.

However, even though donations are up, so are requests. People who used to give are now in need.

My task for the day was to sort and pack food. I started out with beverages. Gatorade, juice and even Pellegrino were packed into boxes that would be picked up by Gleaner partners for distribution. Groups that partner with Gleaners cannot make people "work, pay or pray" for their food," Denise said. In some locations, Gleaners even has a store so that customers may choose what they want to eat in a dignified manner.

After a half hour of packing beverages, I moved to snacks, and was met with a cacophony of children laughing and yelling.

Two sixth-grade classes from St. Joseph in Lake Orion were on a field trip — a mission to help others. We set up an assembly line and started packing away. Within another half-hour, the children, parents and teachers had packed about 2,000 pounds of food. The teachers have been participating in this annual field trip for three years, and it's a great way to teach children about helping others.

"We do this so that (students) will one day intrinsically help others," said teacher Sherry Brandon.

I hope these teachers' lessons leave an impression on the youths. Gleaners cannot do it's job without volunteers. The handful of offices employs about 70 people, Leduc said, adding that it has more than 20,000 volunteers. Summertime is a great way to get involved because people tend to volunteer more during the holidays. Hunger is year round.

The Pontiac Gleaners makes it so easy to help. Groups of five or less can drop by without signing up from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. However, it's probably good for first-time volunteers to call ahead. All of the Gleaners locations can use help. If you don't have time, consider donating. To learn more, visit


  1. Sounds like you had fun - and did some good work helping others. Glad to hear the Gleaners people were so nice. I'm thinking about getting a group of girlfriends together and this place sounds like we'd enjoy volunteering there. Thanks for providing so many ideas.

  2. Thanks for commenting! It was a great time, and it would be a fun group activity. If you go, please send a photo. I am trying to make a slide show of other volunteers.