Some sow, some reap

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    Some sow, some reap and some of us even weep. Looking back through my life, I’ve done all three. There have been times when I saw my actions as cultivating new soil. At other times, I was sowing seeds or perhaps grooming plants that were just waiting to bear fruit. Of course, all can seem lost when reality fails to produce even a single leaf.
    Does giving matter? Does faith yield anything tangible? Does going the extra mile actually get me anywhere? At a given moment, it doesn’t always seem to be so. How many times have I struggled to see the forest for the trees? Fortunately, we are encouraged to continue in our pursuit because of the legacy left by others.
    It is uncomfortable to admit, but I have wanted to throw in the towel a time or two. Doing, being and or just availing of self can be exhausting. In hindsight, how thankful I am to know I didn’t quit something I started. Seeds planted years ago do eventually come to fruition.
    Nothing could give that thought greater meaning than seeing the blooms of seeds sown years ago in our own community.
    Every Thursday, my Sweet Al and I attend lunch at Loaves and Fishes. I am reminded that someone had the foresight to plant from their own heart something that would enrich our community. Each week I see individuals from the community toil together. With their bright eyes and smiles, I get to be the beneficiary of serving hearts.
    I had the pleasure of meeting Gwen Bartley recently while attending the weekly community lunch. She is one of the board members and the vice president of the nonprofit organization.
    Loaves and Fishes started 14 years ago by four local women: Jane Lomasney, Gloria Haines, Muriel Cronkhite and Joanne Irons.
    Those kind-hearted women began their community outreach by serving juice and coffee to individuals receiving immunizations. Their goal: to bring the people of Pagosa together. They would eventually see a bigger need, paying out of pocket to hand out sandwiches to those who needed something to eat. Their efforts would eventually culminate with a full-service, hot meal served each and every Thursday.
    The seeds planted, offering a passer-by something to drink, would bring about a harvest, feeding an average of 200 to 300 people each week. Eight permanent volunteers as well as several others who came along side, offered their time and served nearly 13,000 meals in 2018. One of the volunteers, Nancy Crouse has been there since the beginning. Today, even as in 2005, she shares a gracious smile and serves from the heart.
    Twenty-five meals are packaged and delivered to seniors in public housing. For those who stop by the Parish Hall to eat, volunteers encourage them to take a meal-to go for themselves or a to a home-bound neighbor or someone in need. This totals about an additional 75 take-out meals each week.
    Loaves and Fishes community outreach can’t do it alone. It has approximately 26 sponsors, which are a combination of local organizations and churches. Through the year, youth from 4-H, high school Christian athletes and the Pagosa Springs Girls Choir volunteer to serve.
    The nonprofit receives donated meat and bakery goods from City Market. Weekly sponsors pay for everything else, as well as provide volunteer services.
    The meals are always delicious and the service, exceptional. Occasionally, Jack Ellis and band provide live music.
    Gwen said, “You know you are doing something that counts when you see people come and enjoy. They look forward to Thursday when they talk to friends. It might be the only hot meal they get all week.”
    One gentleman’s therapist told him to come and talk to people at Loaves and Fishes and not be isolated. Interesting how a weekly meal could also provide needed fellowship for those who seek it.
    What are the outreach needs?
    “More volunteers, sponsors and funding,” stated Gwen. Most of the money used to provide this weekly meal comes from contributions within the community. Loaves and Fishes does not receive public funding, but counts on grants and individual donations.
    Gwen started volunteering in 2011. She told me a story of a longtime resident of Pagosa who came for lunch each week, a time that allowed him to fellowship with area friends. She said it warmed her heart when she heard one of the men at the front door say, “Let’s go next door and get some warm clothes for you. It is so cold.”
    Final brushstroke: It can be difficult to give of ourselves or talents, especially when we don’t see the immediate value or know of the end result. As for Gwen and the many volunteers who cook and serve weekly meals for the community, the action of doing is the reward. Who would have believed this endeavor that was planted in the hearts of four women years ago would result in what it has become today?
    Then again, perhaps it is part of a greater calling. In Matthew 14:16, “Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’”