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Abundant Harvest Food Pantry

By Michael Bromka

Oasis Food Bank has the apt poetical official name of Abundant Harvest Food Pantry --one ministry of Oasis Church, aptly named spiritually.To folks low on cash, the Pantry is literally their nutritional Oasis. Oasis is at 802 S. Main Street where Main elbows west into Roosevelt --which elbow rests on the verdant lowland of MLK Park, just west of train tracks near Lower Tansill Dam on Lake Carlsbad.The church is led by Pastor Gabe and Bethie Rubio, with pastoral staff Albert Alvarez, Brian & Amber Hurst, Josiah & Desiree Ochoa, Jan Walterscheid, and Andy Weisner --reachable at 575-887-1212 and Oasis offers worship inEnglish and Spanish, as well as children's, teen, girls', women's, and young adult activities.These share space in the sanctuary plus offices, coffee shop, and fenced playground. Close parallel to train tracks is the three-roomed Oasis Pantry.Food arrives from Albuquerque via Roadrunner Food Bank, member of Feeding America.Oasis pays transport costs.Local rescued food comes from San Jose Senior Recreation Center, Albertsons, and Walmart.Diana Carrasco has been volunteering fifteen years, directing a stalwart crew of volunteers.They put in three half-days weekly cleaning, stocking, gleaning, and prepping for Tuesday morning distribution.Women volunteers cross-train in skills needed in front, middle, and back rooms. Prior to COVID 19, Sylvia Trujillo served as ideal front room doyenne.Among seating for twenty, she chattily presided with clients sipping coffee, eating donuts, and awaiting a turn to receive free groceries."You could say I entertain, chatter, keep the mood happy.Folks open up and talk.You learn how it's going with everybody.I've been here so long now.I don't know everyone by name, but I know them by face."Clients who come for food here are elderlies, disabled, young families, and couples.Some come alone, some with a baby or child too young yet for school.So they'll bring 'em in.And elders raising their grandchildren come. "Single men raising children, we greet them too.When they fall out of work --'I lost my job so here I am.'Fine with us.You know they've found work again when they no longer come for food.

"I always have an updated job listing to hand out.I try to nudge it on some, but don't always get there.Still --from that list, clients have landed work with La Tienda, Burger King, Wendy's, Walmart, and Tokyo. "Juan Chavez, a client, sometimes brings a guitar, plays beautifully, and sings folk songs in Spanish.Such times, we hush up to listen."It's pretty good to know the bilingual.We have white clients who speak Spanish as well.There's no discrimination here.Little kids will sit in or hide under their Granny's bin while we all wait.There's juice and a cookie for each child. "Vivian Devlin is an awesome older lady who still waits tables at Denny's when it's open.At Oasis on distribution days, Viv volunteers with clipboard, sign-ins, and next-in-line order of clients.She's a solid teammate.Coronavirus has barred older volunteers now till it's safe again.Soon, I hope."In the middle room on computers are Diana and whichever volunteer is slated to help input tracking data of name, age, household size, and dietary restrictions.They offer to pray one-on-one with any client who wishes.Prayerful concerns range from healing to solvency to freeing unjustly incarcerated loved ones.Diana recalls one elder homeless man."To this day when I tell this, my eyes tear up.He was so thankful, he asked to pray for me.He spoke thanksgiving for all, for his love of Christ.He touched the depths of my heart.He didn't see homelessness.He simply thanked our Lord --for the day, for food, for life."Diana's faith, and that of other volunteers, is inspired by scripture.Matthew 25:35 --"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat" --is a favorite of Diana, and of Rose Campbell who stocks and prepares food boxes in the back."Jesus wants us to be His hands and feet," says Rose. "Matthew 25:40 --'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'I take seriously what God has called us all to do."At the Pantry we aren't just volunteers.We're family in Christ.We love, pray, and help one another.Every time we're here there's news of healing or of jobs that were prayed for.And knowing people won't go home hungry is miraculous."Janie Bingham cites 1 Corinthians 13:13 --"And now abide the faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" --although she translates the word charity as love.For Janie, it's familial.

"My brother, a Navy veteran, spent several years homeless.I’m sure that affects my perspective.So I’ve felt closest to our homeless clients.I enjoy hearing each person's life story."The experience of Val Muñoz informs how she reads Psalm 146: 5-7 "the Lord his God...which giveth food to the hungry." "I was once homeless for a spell," relates Val."I remember how little things to me suddenly became big --free meal, bed to sleep a few nights in, a smile or kind word someone gave.From others I received kindness.I learned to not take things for granted.So now I serve others. "The most precious moments come when I sit with someone, hear a bit of their story, and they allow me to pray with them.When you genuinely care to listen, you can see hope spark in their eyes.Sometimes all a person needs is to feel seen and to be heard.Every person matters.They each have value!"Frequent workers in the food-stocked back room are Rose, Janie, Val, Aida Campos, and Brittany Young.Occasional supplemental volunteers are Bernadette Lara, Ella Skinner, Christine Williams, and Karen Wood.When Isaac García and his wife Trina pick up donated food from Albertsons and Walmart, he recalls Deuteronomy 15:11 --"...thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land." Also, Isaac appreciates the put-up-or-shut-up dictum in James 2: 14-17." if it hath not works is dead, being alone."Though the phrasing is backhanded, its Walk-the-Talk! imperative is clear."I also help unload food deliveries that resupply our pantry.When I helped distribute food, I enjoyed even brief encounters with clients.I know food's going to a family in need."Willie Williams and David Evans wheel a trolley packed with food out the back door and down a ramp to clients, with or without cars.Among occasional volunteer men are Larry Campbell, Edward Campos, Rey Carrasco, Levi Saiz, and Benjie Trujillo."Homeless folks?" reflects Sylvia."At times it's clear to see.There are folks with a car but no home.Whole families living out of only their car. "Homeless folks with no car come here on a bicycle, or on foot with a wagon, some with just a bag or backpack.They take their food back to no home at all, except whatever.A tent I suppose.But some havea way to cook, a little camp-stove.The tougher task must be washing up.Somehow they get it done.Without money or a chance to earn, there's still determination to survive, to make the best of it."

When asked what the general public can do to support the Oasis Abundant Harvest Food Pantry, Diana Carrasco balances clients and faith. "Our mission is financially supported by donations, and spiritually by prayer."

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