It all started during one of our breaks between the livelihood demo sessions we were conducting as members of the General Parent Teacher Association (GPTA) of Doña Pilar C. Gonzaga Special Science Elementary School in Mandaluyong. I am currently serving as the GPTA president and our livelihood project aims to help the parents to become self-reliant so they can provide their children with mobile internet load credits they can use for their online education.
While having our snacks, the school principal Mrs. Maria Venancia Causon casually asked if we heard of the community pantry that everybody is talking about and if there was already one in Mandaluyong.
As a Latter-day Saint who is always on the look out for opportunities to serve, I quickly replied that there was none in Mandaluyong as far as I knew, but we should start one in the school immediately. Sometimes when we talk and plan about something too much it doesn’t happen.
So with P1000.00 from the GPTA fund and personal contributions from a handful of members, we went and bought basic needs. As soon as we started the school community pantry and posted photos on social media, we started receiving money and donation pledges. That is why we were able to buy more supplies for the second day.
What a joy! It was so heartwarming to receive donations and to see how happy some people were with the small amount of basic goods we were able to give them. Different kinds of people went to the pantry. There were some who went to town and got a lot, while some complained that what they got was not enough. Families upon families lined up, it was an overwhelming sight.
The response was beyond anything we anticipated. I was moved to tears when an old man handed me a five-peso-coin after receiving a pack of goods. It touched my heart to see how generous some people could still be with the very little that they had. I was reminded of the widow’s mite.
A fish vendor who was able to get some food items on the first day refused to line up when we invited him as he was passing on the by second day. He wanted another person to have the opportunity, saying he still had some of the items he got the other day. A resident who lived right next to the school donated two trays of fresh eggs upon learning about the project.
Although there are still some who allow their selfish tendencies to get the better of them, all in all the generosity and the heroism of even the humblest people managed to shine through. I just hope more community pantries will emerge all over the country, and that more and more of the truly needy will receive the help they desperately need.
I am so grateful that my friends in the GPTA are service-oriented people with good hearts. I am glad I accepted the challenge to serve as this year’s president despite the pandemic. I was confident they would agree to the community pantry idea because they agreed last December 2020 when I proposed a “Light the World”-inspired gift-giving project for the school’s indigent students. We solicited donations from parents and I personally asked some of my friends for donations too.
There is a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that I am able to live by my favorite Book of Mormon scripture: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17). ◼︎