Slow Day at Mineral

This Presidents’ Day was the first Monday I haven’t been working for quite some time, so I put it to use.  My friend, retired R.N. Jacques Angelino, and I made the trip (72 miles each way) down to Mineral in western Athens County.  Jacques has made the trip at least 500 times, each time with his Toyota bursting at the seams with clothes, school supplies, personal hygiene items, and food to deliver to the Feed My Sheep food pantry.  He always brings his 97-year-old mother Jackie along, and she sits in the Faith Believers’ Ministry sanctuary and bags pasta and rice.

The turnout today was low.  We traveled down in the driving rain and low-lying fog and went to work filling food boxes from the shelves that lined the pantry walls.  Cans of tuna, corn, Spam, kidney beans, green beans, and soup went into the boxes on the worktable, all the co-workers prayed over them, and then when the cars began lining up outside at 1 p.m., they were ready to go.

I took this picture last June.  These are full boxes of food,
ready for distribution to the people coming by for them.

As the end of February nears, we expected there to be a long line of people coming to get food packages, but there were probably only 20 to 25 customers altogether.  My guess is the line will be bumper-to-bumper next week, the last day of February, but we took long breathers between cars, and many boxes remained on the worktable in the pantry, ready to go out next week.

Rev. Ray Ogburn, the pastor of the small Faith Believers Ministry (which hosts the pantry) justifiably takes pride in the fact that his is the only pantry in Athens County which has never run out of food.  In addition to filling the outgoing boxes, we restocked from the backup supply of food in the Sunday school room and the trailer next door.

Contributions are always a touch-and-go business, and Ray isn’t always flush to buy food from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.  Since Athens County is the poorest of the 88 counties in Ohio, unfortunately there will be a need for his service for quite some time.  Jacques told me about an elementary-school girl from the church who came down one Monday with her mother to help hand out food, and she asked her mom, “Where do the people who come here go to work?”  Her mom explained that there were no jobs for them in this area, and this was why we were down here helping.  Employment is so scarce in the area (the Office of Workforce Development placed it at 8.2% in December) that people frequently car- and vanpool to day labor jobs in Columbus, Parkersburg, and Lancaster.

More and more I find myself in total agreement with the words of St. John Chrysostom.  (I have long been reluctant to cite his quotes, because he is also the author of some anti-Semitic sewage called Eight Homilies Against the Jews, which was Mein Kampf before there was Mein Kampf.  Rabbi Michael Lerner took him to task quite handily in his excellent book The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism on the Left.)

However, these words of St. John Chrysostom should be inscribed above the altar of all houses of worship:

It is not possible for one to be wealthy and just at the same time.  Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?

Jacques brought 10 lovely afghans from church and gave them to people with young children.  Women at the church spent many hours knitting these, and another woman crocheted the separate panels together, and now children in Athens County will sleep in warmth in the near future.  He gave one afghan to a woman who turns 85 next week, and I took a picture of it with his one-shot camera.  (I was going to bring my new DXG Model 506V mini-camcorder/still camera.  I got it at the end of January at the Really, Really Free Market, and it works just fine.  Unfortunately, it came minus the CD-ROM with the driver, so I have no way of loading my pictures and video clips into the laptop at present.  I sent an email to DXG asking about sending me the disk with the driver.)

He has also made it a point to include a children’s book or two in each outgoing food box.  He believes that children should start reading and learning at as young an age as possible, and I totally agree with this.  When Jacques taught elementary school in inner-city Washington, D.C., he was constantly appalled during his home visits when he saw the total lack of reading material in any of his pupils’ homes.  I live at the other extreme, where books consume every flat surface of my living quarters, but he would go to houses where there was nothing to read–not even a TV Guide or a Holy Bible, let alone a dictionary or a newspaper.

I was home by late afternoon, and the mercury dropped just far enough that the rain turned to wet snow.  The ground was already covered by the time I stepped out of the house for my weekly meeting of the Radical Mental Health Collective at Sporeprint.

I do not/will not elaborate on what happens at the meetings, because confidentiality is the first order of business for such a gathering.  The only chiseled-in-stone rule of the Collective is a mantra that members of Narcotics Anonymous use as a guide:

Who you see here,
What you hear here,
Let it stay here,
When you leave here.


The reply is: “Hear, hear!”

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