Reflections from a Year Long Volunteer: Priscilla Richter

How did you find yourself in Erie, PA?
Priscilla: I was in the Benedicta Riepp program of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie where I experienced monastic living by living, working and praying with the Sisters.

And how did you find yourself at Emmaus?
Priscilla: The Food Pantry was one of my work assignments. Working for a year at the Emmaus Ministries’ food pantry has been a great honor and blessing for me.

What reflections do you have on your time volunteering at the Food Pantry?
Priscilla: I found early on that the Food Pantry is much more than a place to receive food each week – people who come also receive compassion, love, and hope from the staff and volunteers. Each Monday and Tuesday morning, over 200 people – those born and raised here in addition to people from many different countries -- walk through the line receiving food for the week. Many languages are spoken here. Ages span many decades, from young mothers with their babies to those of advanced age.

The effects of poverty are sometimes etched in their faces or their posture. Each one is the face of Christ. Each week I am made aware of my privilege and comfortable life, which I often take for granted. Early on I realized that my work there was not only to give out food, but to give love. This, of course, is the mission of Emmaus Ministries. This mission flows from the staff and the many volunteers, who also come from many walks of life. We all worked together with gratitude and joy.

A story that reflects the spirit of generosity and compassion that lies at the heart of Emmaus Ministries: the first day that we gave out food after the New Year, staff and volunteers arrived early to find an elderly woman outside in the bitter cold and deep snow waiting for the Food Pantry to open, which would not happen for over an hour. She was known to the staff, she lived a few blocks away, and had walked there somehow, with her walker, in the deep snow and ice. She was very hungry and weak.

Staff and volunteers sprang into action, bringing her into the warm room. They assembled a package of food for her even though the food sent to us for that day had not yet been unpacked and sorted. The woman, her food, and her walker were then packed into a car and she was driven home. This is the compassionate spirit of Emmaus Ministries.

I was most amazed at how this spirit affected the Food Pantry guests. They regularly express their gratitude for this ministry. Also, a spirit of unity is evident as people of so many different ethnicities and races flowed through the line – they help one another if someone has a difficult time making his or her way through the line. Given the dearth of civility in these times and the diversity of the guests, this is pretty amazing. This is the embodiment of hope that the human spirit is resilient and giving, even in the face of adversity.

My year with the Food Pantry has been filled with blessings. I will return to visit, and when I do, I will once again take a place among the volunteers on the line.