The snow is falling outside the doors of our pantries but there are families arriving in thin jackets, sandals with socks. For some of them this is the first snow they’ve ever seen. They don’t even own a pair of snow boots. These families are refugees from Nicaragua in the US for the first time and in need of basic things – food, clothes, safety. Sleeping four to a room in Milwaukee is preferable to returning to fear and turmoil.
The food we provide is a warm welcome and a good start, and we provide more than that. These new community members ask about volunteering and we find them jobs around the pantry. Some help to stock the produce, others to sweep the floors. They greet new members of their community and show them the ropes.
One mother approaches the desk and becomes quiet when she’s asked how many family members are in her household. Her eyes brim with tears as she tells us about the children she left behind. Her heart is in two, one half back with her family, the other in this new, strange city. As she’s brought a cup of coffee and a thick, warm coat there’s a glimmer of hope. In this space she is safe. In this space she has family.