Last Week, I Was–Quite Literally–A Bean-Counter

Last Monday was Flag Day, and it is not one of the Federal holidays that government workers enjoy while most of the private sector still has to show up and punch in.  I took a vacation day Monday and made one of my semi-regular journeys down to Feed My Sheep food pantry in Mineral to help out with packaging and distributing foodstuffs.

I came there with two rookies–my friend Steve Palm-Houser and his daughter Amelia.  We made the trip down to western Athens County with only one casualty along the way–Steve’s tire.  He managed to travel the rest of the way from Logan to Mineral (New Marshfield, according to the U.S. Postal Service) on a doughnut, but we arrived shortly after 1 p.m.

Bean counter is a pejorative term for an accountant (per The Urban Dictionary), but it’s been extended to all civil servants.  Last Monday, I literally became a bean counter briefly, although I was mostly a pasta counter.  We arrived too late to stock the boxes of food in the back room of Feed My Sheep (a room off the sanctuary of Faith Believers’ Ministry), so we went to work filling Ziploc bags with pasta.  Amelia jumped right into this task with no trouble at all, helping Jacques Angelino’s 96-year-old mother, while Steve and I needed a few moments to get organized and get a pattern going.  Soon enough, we were scooping up pasta, filling bags, and adding them to boxes, stopping only when we ran out of bags.

Steve (back to camera), pasta, and me, at Faith Believers’ Ministry.

Amelia and Jackie bag pasta.

Mineral, and the poverty in Athens County, is an ongoing crisis.  In many ways, I would think that a natural disaster–such as Hurricane Ike or Hurricane Katrina–would be preferable to a resident of these areas than the grueling poverty and unemployment.  When a natural disaster strikes, the experience is hellish, but they end.  You can look around and see what has been damaged or destroyed, you can see what needs to be done, and then set about either doing it or finding the resources to accomplish it.  This is an ongoing crisis, and you come away thinking that your time is well spent, even if the help provided will be necessary again next week.  Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, is fond of quoting Talmudic rabbi Tarfon’s words: “It is not upon you to finish the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

I have posted the address elsewhere in the blog (both here at Blogspot and on my erstwhile site, the LiveJournal account), but if you are moved to generosity, please send a check or money order to:
Feed My Sheep Food Pantry
c/o Faith Believers Ministry
8137 St. Rt. 356
New Marshfield, OH  45766
I am hoping to make another trip down to the pantry sometime in the summer, possibly with Susie in tow.  She has gone before, and was quite a productive worker.
Amelia made a new friend while she helped out at Mineral.
A look at Faith Believers Ministry, which houses
Feed My Sheep Food Pantry, and boasts the
only soda pop machine in Mineral ($.50 a can,
quite a bargain!)

Jefferson Awards

I think I was more disappointed than Jacques that he wasn’t one of the five finalists for the national Jefferson Award.  He took it in stride, and saw the award, and its coverage on television and in This Week Community Newspapers, as benefiting his goal of reducing, if not eliminating, hunger in Central and Southeastern Ohio.

The ceremony wasn’t a banquet, as I thought it would be.  There was a ceremony, hosted by Angela Pace and Chuck White, Public Affairs Director and Public Affairs Director Emeritus, respectively, of WBNS-TV, Channel 10.  There were speeches by Ohio’s First Lady, Frances Strickland, and Mayor Mike Coleman, and then they announced the five finalists.  When Jacques saw video rolling, featuring interviews and a two- or three-minute vignette about the honorees’ causes and activities, he knew he wasn’t a finalist, because no camera crew or TV reporter had spoken to him.

We did get a free meal out of it, because there were finger foods and refreshments in the foyer outside the hall at the McCoy Center after the ceremony.  I spoke with Chuck White briefly.  Since Angela Pace had introduced him as “Mr. Tree,” I told him about how Luci’s Toy Shop had been my favorite children’s program in my pre-school years, and how I didn’t want to go to kindergarten because it would mean missing the show.  (White was the puppeteer for the program, which ran on WBNS from 1960 to 1973.  Mr. Tree was one of the characters.)

Luci’s Toy Shop was also where my name was first broadcast on mass media.  On my fourth birthday, Luci said happy birthday to me and all other kids born on April 29th.

Jacques made contact with other people, including his fellow nominees, about possibly joining forces for their respective causes.  That, he said, made the award worth it, even if he is not in the running for the national award.

Jacques and me before leaving for New Albany
Jacques and Angela Pace
Angela Pace and me
I am seeing a pulmonologist on the 12th about the cough that has become as much a part of me lately as my beard.  Each day I think that maybe I’ve overcome it, or it’s improving, but then I take a deep breath and I’m brought back to reality.  The chest X ray I had at Mount Carmel West turned up nothing, and neither codeine nor antibiotics have stopped it.
So we’ll see.  

Playing Hooky with the State’s Full Blessing

This is my last “cost-savings day” for this fiscal year, so I didn’t get out of bed until 9 a.m.  (In our last contract, the union agreed to take 10 unpaid days off per year.  To make this less of a blow to the pocketbook, 3.2 hours are deducted from each paycheck during the life of the contract.)

I’m typing this before I leave for the McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany.  My friend Jacques Angelino is a finalist for the Jefferson Award, given by WBNS-TV (Channel 10) and Nationwide Insurance.  This is an award honoring extraordinary public service and achievement.  I nominated Jacques because of his tireless, single-minded efforts to end hunger in Central and Southeastern Ohio–mainly through this weekly trips to the Feed My Sheep food pantry in Mineral, Ohio.  Since I nominated him, I’m invited to the award ceremony.  Jacques, accompanied by his 96-year-old mother, will be picking me up soon.

This isn’t a black-tie affair, fortunately.  Jacques is wearing blue jeans, he told me on the phone.  I’m wearing a button-down oxford and black jeans.  I joked with him about whether we’d wear tuxedos.  (The last time I wore a tuxedo was when I was a best man at a friend’s wedding.)