Bishop Visits Neighbors 4 Neighbors

The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Assisting Bishop for the Diocese of San Diego, visited St. Margaret’s on Tuesday, January 23, and participated in our Neighbors 4 Neighbors program that afternoon. The Bishop was given a tour of the N4N operation by Chet Hecht, Director of Outreach, Family Ministry and Fellowship.

Chet told Bishop Katharine that up to 30 pallets of food can arrive on any given day. The volunteers in the program spend Tuesday mornings packing as many as 300 vegetable bags, USDA bags, base product bags and protein bags for distribution later in the day. Each family receives one vegetable bag, one USDA bag, one base product bag and one protein bag.

The program began about 14 or 15 years ago and has grown from 20 families then to the 350 families currently seen per week. Donations of food from a variety of sources fuel the operation, and Chet said, “I don’t think we’ve run out of food in a lot of years.” He added that if they did, they’d go shopping for more.

In addition to food distribution, N4N has a clothing operation called Threads. Volunteers sort donated clothing on Mondays and the clothing is then available on Tuesdays to anyone who needs something. St. Margaret’s encourages anyone who wishes to donate items of clothing to do so. 

Another group of dedicated volunteers interviews potential clients to learn of their needs, and clients are often referred to social services outside of N4N as needed. 

Following the tour, Bishop Katharine had the opportunity to interact with some of the clients and learn about their personal situations and needs. When asked for her impressions of the day, she said, “I am bowled over by the energy and passion of the people who volunteer here and the happiness of everybody involved in this. There is incredible joy in being able to serve other people, and that’s what I see over and above everything else. Really high quality food is being given out, people have access to clothing, to social services, food stamp registration, and somebody got help with housing today. It’s just stunning, and it started from the passion of a few people who wanted to help their neighbors. That’s why we’re here.”

As Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States from 2006 to 2015, she traveled all over the country, visiting many dioceses and parishes. St. Margaret’s News asked her if she had seen anything like N4N in her time as the Presiding Bishop. She said, “I have not seen something this scale that’s just run by volunteers. When I see something this scale, it’s usually run by a 501c3 or it’s an aspect of Episcopal Community Services or a community food bank, where somebody is paid to run it. This is run by volunteers which is really mind-boggling.”

Her final words of the day: “Keep up the great work. And spread your virus abroad.”

To volunteer with Neighbors 4 Neighbors, contact Chet at (760) 346-2697, Ext. 102.