A Former Nurse Leading a Ministry of Help
Mary McKnight, a 69 year-old retired nurse, did not want to be photographed, but she shared her story and how she has come to help so many people in our region, including at the Reno Center of Influence food pantry by the Veteran's hospital for the past two years. Other volunteers she leads testified to her leadership, the value of helping her in her endeavors, helping others and working as a group. The distributions are open to any volunteers, and all are welcome.
"We distribute food to the needy, whether they are homeless or veterans or whoever needs food. We do this on the second and fourth Fridays of each month for the general public and on the fourth Wednesday of each month we do an exclusive for veterans," McKnight explained as to the specifics.
A Long but Worthwhile Process
People in line show their ID or their SNAP card (the federal USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families).
"We hand them a bag and they take what they need within reason and usually they leave with a few bags full of anything and everything," she said of the specifics.
The distribution though is just the end of a long process. "I start around eight o’clock in the morning and go to different stores to get [food] donations. I put [these in] my truck and I transport it to the receiving area. Together with other volunteers, we sort everything whether it's produce or bakery or dairy or dried goods and canned goods. It usually just depends on the amount of donations. We then sort and refrigerate ... We try and help as many people... None of the food goes to waste."
From a Farm to Helping to Inspiring Volunteers
McKnight said growing up with a large family on a farm guided her helping ethos.
"Working on our farm has helped me to learn the value and respect of others. We would all work together for the common goal--to help each other and share. After graduating from nursing school, I realized from within I had always wanted to help others. When it comes from within --your heart follows! There isn't a better day than when you see the face on one----- that is saying 'Thank You for all you do, and the help you give to all of us.'"
She says those who are helped often find it in themselves to help others, leading to a chain of love and care.
Testimony from Other Volunteers
" I have a personal job but this is my volunteering job. It's God's work. I met Mary the first time we ever opened this establishment, that was like 2 years ago. Ever since then we've become very good friends and she's a member of our family. She has a very big heart. Very awesome person, very nice, very humble. She helps out a lot of people. People that don't even see her. You know I have a lot of coworkers that when they need help or food, I can text Mary and Mary offers to help. When I’m around her, I feel lots of love and appreciation. God blessed us with that angel. "
"I met Mary at the food bank because she brought in food to help the needy in the neighborhood. She's a great friend. She's very loving, very kind, gentle and compassionate. She shows love to everyone that comes in. We need people like Mary who have a compassion for those who have less in society. We need people who are younger to come and volunteer and not just seniors who are retired. You can't depend on us all the time. Purpose and love inspires me to volunteer."
James O' Connor- Volunteer
"I have known Mary for about two years now. I help in the food pantry, in the thrift store, every day, five days a week because God's been good to me. It's time I give back. It's his grace that makes me want to do this. Mary is great, without her, we wouldn't have what we have here for the food pantry and we do help about 4,000 people a month from all over Reno. "