Friday, December 12, 2008

Miracle on Pier 48

I did not need to go the gym on Friday as planned; nor will I need to go on Saturday. That's because I spent 5 hours on Thursday volunteering for The Miracle of Pier 48. As a group, we provided food, personal care items, and toys to 5000 families in San Francisco.

Four of these hour I was among the army of volunteers directly working with the families. An individual, or perhaps a parent and child (or a couple adults) would be paired with 2 volunteers. We would walk them down the donation "gauntlet" picking up and carrying their goodies for them. This included:
  • 2 bags of frozen chicken parts
  • a box filled with non-perishable food such as beans and peanut butter
  • a box filled with toiletries (toilet paper, etc.)
  • one toy (most were video games that hooked up to the tv)
  • a bag of goodies from Avon
  • a case a water.
By the time we got to the end of this gauntlet both volunteers would be carrying ~30 or so pounds of goodies. And this gauntlet was about 200 yards long. That's a lot of hauling!

What struck me about many of the people we talked with was these were the described "working poor." These people worked hard and still needed help. Yes, there were the ones who were looking for as much as they could get and more. Allowed 1 toy, they groused because they 4. Many, however, were truly thankful for everything they got - including the human power to carry it all.

After the first 2 hours, everything stopped for an hour (a major tactical error). Pallets of supplies were moved and re-organized while most of the volunteers were given a break; some standing around time where nothing seemed to be happening (and I sought out a cushier position handing out goodies rather than picking them up. Did. Not. Succeed.)

Finally were told they were holding a press conference and we were all invited into the back of the pier to witness it. Former SF mayor Willie Brown was the MC. He explained how the entire function came into being (wish I had taken notes). He introduced the founder of Feed of Children who supplied the food.

Then the president of the NBA Players Assoc. spoke. The players assoc. provided much of the money to cover the cost of the items that were given. Every professional basketball player is taxed a portion of his/her salary to support NBA Cares. Each player is also encouraged to personally participate in several community events each year. There were 6 of the Golden State Warriors then introduced at our event.

When the press coverage finally ended, 100 or so of the families were brought into the area where the press conference took place. The players each had a station where they handed out the goodies and lots of press photos were taken. The family we helped was so overwhelmed by the idea of what they were being given (and likely tired from standing waiting for close to 2 hours) that I'm not sure they even knew they were standing near the players.

But let me say from personal experience that 7 food tall (when you're 5'3") is REALLY TALL and we had 2 centers working the event! Also, the players -many of them a much more "normal" height - were all genuinely friendly and seemed to be honored to be there.

Unfortunately, this work stoppage meant that the line of waiting recipients grew extremely long. We worked as fast as we could to get families through the gauntlet and out onto the street. Still, many people showed up after picking up their children at school. The line extended back the entire length of the pier and out the door. A program that was meant to end close to 5 pm, was going to be going strong until much later. I lasted as long as I could but about 5:30 I pooped out. I still had close to a mile walk back to the closest BART station and my arms and legs were killing me.

It was close to 7 pm by the time I got home. Bone tired, hungry, a blister on my right foot and sore to my core. It was a great day and I'll definitely be back next year if it happens. But I think I'll bring my own hand truck.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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