Helping is 'a beautiful feeling' for this food pantry manager

Ms. Lola smiles at the camera, wearing a yellow coat over a red apron.
June 1, 2023
by Paul Morello

Since 1999, Ms. Lola has been the director of the Grace Baptist Church’s food pantry in Oakland, California. Every week, she manages volunteers, picks up food from the Alameda County

Community Food Bank, and orchestrates a weekly food distribution that serves the community on Wednesdays.

And? She recently celebrated her 82nd birthday. 

“I take much pride in being able to manage the pantry still. It’s a blessing because I’ve had two knee replacements, I have a bad back. My feet and my back hurt. I’m pretty much in pain all the time. But I look around me, and there are so many people in so much worse condition. This is what I take pride in – that I’m blessed to be able to do this. And I’ll continue to do this as long as I possibly can. This is my passion,” she said.

What drives that passion? For Ms. Lola, it’s as simple as being able to nourish her community - a passion which was instilled by her parents.

Ms. Lola grew up in Amarillo, Texas where her dad was a sharecropper and her mom cooked in a private home for a doctor. “When anyone came to our house, they never left empty handed. My mother either gave them a cake, cookies, or a jar of apples. So, this became a part of me, that’s how you treat people and show love,” she said.

“It’s such a beautiful feeling when you can help people. When I can reach out and help a person, that keeps me going.

Ms. Lola has been helping a lot of people these days. The pantry provides groceries for more than 200 households every week. But Ms. Lola isn’t backing down. In fact, she doesn’t have any plans to retire anytime soon.

“I know I am changing people’s lives. As long as I’m able to get up and drive down there, that’s how long I’ll keep doing this.”

Want to join us? Find your local food bank to learn about volunteer opportunities in your area.