Every week, Mark volunteers at Second Harvest Heartland with our senior nutrition program.
As a high school student in Anoka, Mark participated in National Honor Society, maintained a 3.9 GPA and was an athlete excelling in football, track and basketball. But from early adulthood on, Mark has also lived with a sometimes debilitating mental illness. Mark spent much of his life homeless in California, Wisconsin and Illinois, estranged from his family and afraid they would be ashamed of him.
“I was standing by the food stand, measuring out pennies to buy a quarter pound of peanuts,” Mark described a vivid memory of the food that he couldn’t afford when he was homeless.
Now in his 50s, Mark has found a sense of stability that revolves around helping others. He has tremendous empathy for those who have struggled to live full, dignified lives while struggling to find enough food.
“People don’t like homeless people because they have needs—to bathe somewhere, eat somewhere,” Mark observes without bitterness.
And for those people, Second Harvest Heartland and the 1,000 partner agencies we serve are crucial: “There’s no other way to get food.”
Mark’s own memories of food shelves and shelters are laced with stories of generosity—people who gave him food which he would often give away to other people in need.
Now Mark volunteers in the Second Harvest Heartland office, where he maintains files for a senior nutrition program and enjoys the structure and camaraderie of service.
“I enjoy working with these other men and women,” he smiles. “We’re all making a contribution.”