30 Years of Volunteering Brings Unexpected Blessings

When my mother, Jennie Tate Anderson, died in 1985, I was brokenhearted. I decided to do something for someone else in her honor. That summer, I began volunteering at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, sorting bread at first, then checking agency orders by hand.

My next job was to ride in a van with Carl Jaffar. To this day, he's one of the best friends that I have in the world. We would pick up food at restaurants like Panos and Paul's (where the chef sang arias to us as we packed up). For the last 15 or so years, I have ridden in a well-equipped refrigerated truck with Mr. Donald McCloudy, a very wise gentleman; Mr. Clifford Robinson, a joy to be around; and Mrs. Maxine Kelly, a very interesting person whose 6'8'' grandson plays football for Georgia Tech.

It has been my pleasure to also get to know Bill Bolling, the heart and soul (executive director and founder) of the Food Bank; Dorothy Dabbs, whose parents were Civil Rights leaders; Erskin Harvey, Rodney Benn, Jackie Wesley and so many other dedicated people on staff at the Food Bank. I've also met the women and men who run the food programs at places like My Sister's House, the Salvation Army Shelter, Saint Francis’ Table - people doing God's work, many of them feeding 500-700 people a week.

Today, while Maxine and I were unloading food at a Decatur church, the people waiting to receive food were sitting on a long series of concrete picnic tables. Several ladies were sitting at the front. One took out thank you cards and passed them around and then hopped up and gave one to Maxine and me. I said thank you and then, "I'll take this to Bill Bolling, the big boss at the Food Bank.” She smiled. Maxine and I returned to the Food Bank and went up to Bill's office (where the door was wide open) and gave him a thank you note signed by the folks who had been waiting for food. We all teared up. It's the reason I have continued to honor my mother by volunteering at the Food Bank. It will be 30 years this summer.

-Dr. Kent Anderson Leslie