This month, I was given an extraordinary lesson in compassion when I had the opportunity to participate in a Rotary volunteer service project. The club provides volunteers each month to an organization known as Community Action House Food Club. Although I was aware of the Community Action House’s efforts to provide lunch meals to those in need in my community, the Food Club was entirely new to me.

I was graciously invited to be part of a Rotary volunteer team that takes a two-hour shift once a month, working in the “grocery store” known as Food Club. This innovative club offers a dignified grocery store setting, where those in need can shop for food using points rather than cash. More nutritious food, such as fresh vegetables, “costs” fewer points, while less nutritious, highly processed food costs more.

On the evening of my assignment, I was tasked with stocking the produce department. In the back room, a team of volunteers was busily bagging green beans, donated by one of our local grocery stores, into smaller packages. Surprisingly, every time I restocked the green beans, I would return to find the section completely emptied. This pattern continued until I discovered that the green beans were free for the evening, priced at “0” points.

However, the night’s most profound lesson lay in the stories of compassion that unfolded around me. As I engaged with Food Club members, I heard heart-rending accounts of their struggles to feed their families amid escalating housing costs and personal challenges. The stories of layoffs, caring for bedridden family members, and other scenarios resonated deeply, reminding me that any of us could find ourselves in a similar position. In 2022 alone, the Community Action House Food Club provided healthy food to 2,600 neighbors and rescued an astonishing 1.2 million pounds of food from going to waste.

What particularly touched me was the heart and compassion displayed by the 20 to 30 volunteers that keep the Food Club running daily, from the back room in-take to the front-end cashiers. An incredible community of individuals donating their time to a grocery store, ensuring others have the ability to feed their families and themselves. They stood as a powerful testament to the profound impact that compassion can have in our communities.

This experience has not only opened my eyes to a new level of empathy but also inspired me to see the boundless potential in human kindness. It’s a lesson in compassion that I’ll carry with me, and I hope it encourages others to reach out and make a difference in their own way. After all, sometimes the most extraordinary acts of humanity are found in the most ordinary places – even a grocery store.