What do RoadRunner Food Pantry distribution, a fire department, Mardi Gras, and the Magdalena Samaritan Center Thrift Shop and Food Pantry have in common? If you live in the Village of Magdalena, they are, as so many things and people are, interconnected.

It is another f-f-f-freezing morning in Magdalena. The monthly food distribution to low income people at the rodeo fairgrounds on No. Main Street in Magdalena is off and running like its namesake, as it does the fourty Friday of every month, about 10 a.m. A semi-truck from RoadRunner Food Bank of NM, a nonprofit, loaded with canned foods, bagged foods, fresh produce, dairy, etc. arrives to be welcomed by a stalwart group of dedicated volunteers, armed with wheelbarrows, gloves, heavy jackets, and willing, if chilly, hands.

Pallets arrive, the volunteers get the assignments/suggestions from capable Annie Danielsen, long-time manager, or they jump to work, having ‘been there done that’ before. Each time is faster and easier. Smiles are big, chatter is fun, people are welcomed back. Ask the volunteers why they donate time; you will get the same answers from about every one. To feel good about oneself, to stay connected to the community (the info. sharing is pretty good!), it is the right thing to do, or the volunteers are not able to donate money (many are low income recipients themselves) so they give time. One volunteer has a chronic fatigue condition that limits her energy. Even so, she told me she has worked all her life and couldn’t imagine giving in to her fatigue. She gives what she can, when she can, to others. When she cannot, someone else steps up. At the Magdalena Samaritan Center, people cover for each other and do their best, and that is what it is all about, people helping people.

As the semi-truck leaves for its next designation, and food has rapidly been set out, recipients are signaled to start moving around the tables; volunteers assist. Soon everyone is served a portion of the fresh produce, food, canned goods and dairy, including many of those who volunteer and also qualify for distribution. There is no “us” and “them” because the line between haves and have nots is non-existent. No judging, no embarrassment.

Fill out a form, qualify, sign up, show up with a big box or laundry basket.

Volunteers are always welcome and more are needed; after a few times it is almost like family. Have you gotten the idea this article is about volunteers?

Additionally, on a weekly basis there is food distribution at the Magdalena Samaritan Center Food Pantry on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (1 p.m. on Saturdat), efficiently managed by Margreet Jenness. Food deliveries are made there by RoadRunner on the first and third Tuesdays – volunteers help unload. Community members also donate food and occasional grant money helps to buy even more food. Again, fill out a form, qualify, sign up, show up, a bag will be issued with your signature on a card.

Fire department

Here is the fire department part. The fellas helping out, calmly lifting baskets, tearing down boxes, wheeling out and loading food? Ask why they are there and usually you will hear, with a wry smile and a laugh, “My wife makes me do it”. However, clean up had begun when a loud cry was raised, “There’s a fire in section XXXX!” Most of those male volunteers, and several women, were instantly focused, alert, at the doors checking for smoke in the distance, ready for details from the radio. It was a stunning few minutes as the mood changed, the shared energy was almost palpable. I anticipated a stampede toward the door; I think I actually moved aside. Those seemingly “complacent” gentlemen, most of whom also volunteer as firemen (women too!), were ready to report immediately to their stations, ready to give their time and put themselves in harm’s way for the good and safety of the community. Fortunately the fire was small, caught early, and within 30 minutes I saw it was smoldering out. A potentially dangerous grass fire, in very dry times, was extinguished. Never underestimate a volunteer.

Board members of the Magdalena Samaritan Center throw a yearly appreciation party for the managers and volunteers. As thin as money can be, those at the top never forget to say “Thanks!”

In February the theme was Mardi Gras and there was food, beads, noisemakers, a band (MORE volunteers, and they’re GOOD!!), and recognition of service. A great time was had by just sitting down with fellow volunteers to compare notes, relax, and chat. A distant friend texted me later to ask “Was there dancing?” Most people in this area have at least one job and often two. Volunteering adds more to the pot. I wrote her — these people simply wanted to sit and enjoy each other’s company. Many were tired but they were there. Personally I hadn’t even thought of dancing!

It reminded me, however, that Mardi Gras is a celebration of life. After door prizes, there came a time for announcements and updates.

Plaques had been made up as a remembrance of several members, some of whom had died in the last week or two. This included the dear husband of the Magdalena Samaritan Center founder, Kelley Barnitz, who was, understandably, away.

While speaking, tears welled up and sadness fell like like a dark curtain for a few moments, it was hard for Board president, Lynda Middleton, to go on, but recovering and continuing was what she did. That is so much of what volunteering is like. It is life. It can be difficult, sometimes hard to witness. It is joy, it is sadness, but it is continuing to do what is right, and to support each other while life goes on. Hunger goes on, need goes on, and that is what volunteers in Magdalena do too. They may choke up and reflect, but they carry on because need continues, and service has honor.

Giving endlessly

Like so many other volunteer organizations, the same few people are seen doing so much for so many. These people give endlessly, but, honestly, even they get tired, and need days off to travel and visit family.

So here’s the pitch: Volunteers are needed.

The “Center” is open three days a week, Monday and Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Two shifts, two people each shift, Saturday one shift. Along with the food distribution functions, bagging and sharing the food kept in modern freezers and refrigerators, the Center is a jewel of a shop. Unlike many thrift stores, the inside is light, bright, immaculately kept, and has no musty smell. The clothes are clean and hanging (please bring them in the same way), infant items in bins. The customer is the focus and there are treasures of all kinds to be had. The quality offerings and ultra-low pricings are amazing.

These are the same folks who put on “Potholders and Pies” once a year, around Thanksgiving; a yearly fund-raising spaghetti dinner and silent auction (the date varies); “Sweets and Treats” in December; and fabulous bake sales (yes, the men also bake and contribute) on the first Saturday of the month, usually starting around 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. (Bake sales coordinate with the monthly VLA tours. Consider signing up for MagEBoard lindajswisher@)icloud.com for free to track times/dates).

Volunteers and community members donate these goodies and time, and never give up or complain.

Efforts help pay for MORE food, rent, propane and electricity, these things are not free, even for non-profits.

Lastly, in many religions, food sharing is a commandment and a blessing, it is its own reward. PLEASE, consider donating time, be part of the good; just a few hours mean so much.

Check out the treasures too, I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Magdalena Samaritan Center Thrift Shop & Food Pantry

102 S. Main St.\P.O. Box 1333

Magdalena, NM 87825

Hours: Mon. & Thur. 10am-2pm, Sat. 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Shop Managers:

Lea Graham hm 575-854-2044, cell 575-854-2044

Brenda Becker hm 575-854-2044, cell 505-220-5981

Pantry Manager: Margreet Jenness hm 575-854-3410, cell 505-569-9825