As a volunteer at Our Lady of Good Counsel’s Food Pantry on Staten Island, I have been blessed to collaborate with some truly incredible individuals, and these relationships have molded me into the empowered woman I am today.

Every moment at the food pantry has been an eye-opening experience, and I am grateful to be a part of such a compassionate community of volunteers. I have been a volunteer since the age of eleven, and it is heartwarming to recognize how my weekly service hours have contributed to the health and happiness of countless individuals on Staten Island.

Since 1993, the mission of our food pantry has been simple: love our neighbors. Under the leadership of Maryann Bollinger and Dolores Connelly, our mission comes to fruition every single week. These women are passionate. Their concern for others is genuine, and they pour their hearts into every single task that comes their way.

In addition to managing our weekly operations, they apply for food grants, coordinate countless donations, organize holiday food drives, pick up food from various locations around the island, accept deliveries during the week, and supervise volunteers like me.

They handle such demanding positions with poise, and I will eternally admire their commitment to such an amazing organization.

With their guidance, our pantry furnishes food to approximately 240 families per month, providing bags of groceries to nearly 80 families each week. Each customer receives a bag with staple food items, such as canned soups, pasta, peanut butter, vegetables, and cereal. In an additional bag, our customers are provided with fresh produce, meat, beans, bread, cake, juice, and other nonperishable items. If there is money to spare, our pantry is also able to provide eggs, milk, and butter for the long line of people outside.

Volunteering for Our Lady of Good Counsel Food Pantry has not only been an incredible opportunity for me to discover the importance of community service, but it has enabled me to develop a deeper layer of gratitude for things I had previously taken for granted.

By helping people who live in a state of such desperation, I have come to learn that happiness cannot be derived from material items. Rather, my greatest joys have been attained through a sincere willingness to help others.

By volunteering at this food pantry, I have learned that there is a larger hunger problem in Staten Island than I could have ever imagined. Hunger exists in front of our eyes, and it affects every single neighborhood in our region. It impacts people of every age, race, gender, religion, and ethnicity. Over 1.4 million people in New York City depend on food pantries for survival. In other terms, one out of every five New Yorkers suffers from the pangs of hunger each day.

The most difficult aspect of volunteering is seeing young children step through the door; it is evident that they are hurting, and I can see desperation in the eyes of some parents. Hunger is a pressing issue here on Staten Island, and I am committed to ending such a horrific problem.

In the future, I hope to advocate the life-giving power of proper nutrition. I plan on promoting the blatant atrocities of hunger, and I seek to expose others to the critical significance of food. Essentially, I desire to pursue my passion for nutrition and combine it with purpose. Malnutrition affects every stage of life and has severe consequences that can impact countless generations. I hope to have a voice in this fight against global hunger.