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Local Light: Catholic Charities’ Food Pantry Volunteers are “Real-Life Heroes”

April 22, 2021

In honor of National Volunteer Week, April 18-24, United Way of Northeast Florida is highlighting outstanding community volunteers dedicated to making a difference all year long. 

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Catholic Charities food pantry volunteers have worked tirelessly to make sure individuals facing food insecurity in Jacksonville do not have to go hungry. Many of their volunteers, like Lisa Obringer, took on extra responsibilities to make sure there was always enough food at the pantry, and there was always someone to serve the food. Hunger does not discriminate along any demographic lines, and Catholic Charities’ volunteers act as real-life heroes in the fight against hunger in Jacksonville.

Here’s what Lisa, one of many dedicated volunteers, had to say about being a Northeast Florida Changemaker:

Describe the person or event that inspired you to give back to the community.
I saw an announcement in my church bulletin that Catholic Charities needed volunteers.

What would you say is the most rewarding aspect about volunteering?
Catholic Charities provides me a place to live the Gospel and, in a small way, try to make a difference in a person’s day to day life. My time volunteering with Catholic Charities has taught me to truly see that everyone is a child of God and should be given respect and dignity. Volunteering feeds my soul. We enjoy working together. We get a chance to interact with people that we would otherwise wouldn’t get an opportunity too. I learn a lot from them; how spiritual they are even in their time of need.

Describe the moment you realized your volunteer efforts were making a real difference. 
When I started volunteering with Catholic Charities, there wasn’t a real food pantry. We had a small closet of food that people donated. Eventually, it was decided that we would start giving food out to the public. Also, our sources for food and volunteers grew and we were able to serve more people. You know you’re a making a difference when you hear the clients stories and you see the weathered looked in their eyes. Just them not having to worry about food for a few days takes the weight off.

If you could inspire people to do one thing to make Northeast Florida a better community, what would that be and why?
Pre-COVID-19, I loved being able to see people and look them in the eye. No one should be ignored. I try to embrace the 3 sayings on that were on the front of the former Catholic Charities building: Act Justly. Love Tenderly. Walk Humbly With God.

What advice would you give someone on the fence about whether or not they should volunteer in their community. 
I would tell them a quote from the poet Tagore, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, services was joy.”
For me, giving back to our community and the common good gives me a feeling of joy and purpose and appreciation for the gifts God has given me.

Join the Movement

Because change doesn’t happen alone, people like you are needed now more than ever to uplift the most vulnerable in our community. You can find a variety of community service projects, including opportunities to uplift historic East Jacksonville, at unitedwaynefl.org/volunteer.