One Special Volunteer
On the Monday after Thanksgiving, having passed out leftovers from the holiday meal at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Center in Eureka, Mary Lee Price sits down to reflect on the work she does all year long. With one major holiday behind her, she is already planning for the next big meal to be served at the center on Christmas Day. However, for people who live on the streets or in marginal housing situations, food is needed every day. And along with a couple of part-time staff members, Price is there to cook it for them.
Price reflects on one special volunteer who showed up at the door of the dining center a couple of years ago.
“Marion Martinez and her husband Michael came in to help in preparation for the meal on Thanksgiving. They asked if there was anything we needed in terms of food or supplies. They wanted to help, but also wanted to stay out of the limelight.” Price says it is common for people to want to volunteer, but some don’t always know how to fit in to the unique environment of this charitable meal program.
“We were down to 100 lunch trays that we use for serving. We needed more. After mentioning this to them, they went online and found the ones we needed. They bought several trays, and also brought in some bags of rice.”
Money was very tight for food supplies at that time, and Price had to cut some items out of the bag lunches that the center provides on the weekends. When she went shopping at Cash and Carry (now called Smart Foodservice) on Indianola Road for her monthly trip there, the manager approached and said she had something for her. Price was presented with a $150 gift card, paid for by Martinez and her husband. From that day on, there was a gift card waiting for her every month.
“I was able to buy some of the items that had to be cut because of limited funds. Marion wanted us to buy a few treats with the cards because she said, ‘Every once in a while, everyone needs a little something special.’”
Sadly, Marion Martinez fell ill with cancer. Her husband came into the dining center one day and told Price. In response to this news, an empty food tray was passed around and every client who came to the dining room signed it.
Martinez passed away in October of 2018. “Unfortunately, she died before we were able to give it to her,” says Price. “But the tray was on display at her memorial service.”
While preparing to go shopping one day, Price found a gift card from Martinez with only four cents left on it. She decided to write a poem in Marion’s honor. This poem, along with a picture of her and the spent gift card, is now a framed tribute that hangs in the dining hall.
It was Marion’s wish before she died to continue the contribution every month. Her husband Michael is carrying it on.
“We are here to help those less fortunate than others,” reminds Price. She hopes that others will consider honoring the memory of a loved one by purchasing a cash card to help feed those in need.
Volunteers are needed to help serve meals. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of the Area 1 Agency on Aging is helping to recruit more volunteers. To sign up for the Christmas holiday meal, contact Mary Lee Price at 267-3768.