Echoes of “Happy Birthday” resounded around a two-layer cake that symbolized the love and trust built up among volunteers and aid recipients during the last two years. A total of 51 volunteers, some from Tzu Chi’s New York office, together with news media gathered at the food pantry to celebrate its second anniversary on September 21, 2012. On the same day, eighty households received food distributions, and over a hundred people enjoyed lunch in a hall filled with laughter, smiles and great love.
Volunteer Zhou Jigong translated Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s letter of congratulations into English and read the words of encouragement and teachings directed towards all of the international volunteers.
Regardless of skin color and language differences, the compassion of Tzu Chi volunteers inspires charity towards the impoverished, and their love opens their hearts. In watching film footage, people could see how delighted those who received the help were as they expressed their sincere thanks, and it was clear how everyone had become a big, warm family.
Ms. Sabrina Wilson, a Government Program Coordinator, who came to Tzu Chi because she admired the organization, encouraged volunteers to keep on their course because the community definitely needs their help. Mrs. Deanna S. London, the CEO of the Human Needs Food Pantry Inc., has 25 years experience in food warehousing and has helped train volunteers at her office. She told people that Tzu Chi started its food pantry with only 2 to 3 households and then expanded to currently more than 400 households. She expressed that the community does need help from Tzu Chi and encouraged people to work hand in hand for another decade or two to come.
Ms. Evelyn Ramos used to be depressed and without family or friends. After coming to know Tzu Chi, she has taken Tzu Chi to be her immediate family, and is now completely free of depression.
Ms. Wicker lost her best friend and close family members all within one year. Sick and unemployed, government benefits were the only resources available for her stressful life. She is grateful for Tzu Chi’s food pantry, as it has become a support for her and relieves her of one of life’s necessities.
Ms. Joyce Reed was thankful to God for sending Tzu Chi volunteers to help the needy of this world. They not only help solve a hunger issue, but also bring tranquility to the soul and blessings to everyone they help.
Amazed by the boundless love of Tzu Chi volunteers, Ms. Carmella Silvestri, a 99% vegetarian, vowed to become 100% vegetarian.
Watching the interaction of love and help between Tzu Chi volunteers, Michelle Kroeze and Ms. Goglia of the Salvation Army expressed their happiness in seeing Tzu Chi now working with the Salvation Army in sending relief to the poor. They were also grateful that Tzu Chi works on taking care of people’s health by providing fresh foods.
The recipients came to meet new friends in Tzu Chi’s family and to feel the warmth and closeness of everyone. Meanwhile the volunteers treated the recipients with respect and blessings by using both hands and a sincere bow to distribute food packs filled with food, vegetables, fruits, lotions for the cold winter and a warm eco-blankets.
Volunteer Debbie Chen was appreciative of Tzu Chi volunteers giving with wholehearted love because they could not bear to see the sufferings of other living beings. With the introduction of the food pantry, volunteers were able to bring in more young people and other local community volunteers and inspire their loving hearts to join Tzu Chi, and in turn help more aid recipients. Volunteer Chen also took the opportunity to invite everyone to a vegetarian meal. She wanted people to enjoy the meal as well as introduce its benefits to our health and to our planet. She invited everyone to cut down, or cut out completely, their meat intake in order to protect our planet and go green.