By Diane Holloway
Communications & Volunteer Coordinator
Once a month, on a Sunday morning, 100 sack lunches magically appear in Trinity Center’s utility closet. These are not the kind of lunches that will spoil in a day or two. They are sacks of carefully chosen items that will survive in a homeless person’s backpack for a long time. Tucked into brown paper bags are crackers, tuna, juice, raisins and other tasty items.
For years I didn’t know where they came from or who brought them. I just knew they were there, and that we hand them out to the neighbors who stay to help us clean up at the end of each day and to people in need emergency food. And then one Sunday morning, when I was overseeing a major project in the Center, Mary and Patrick Veerkamp rolled a huge cart with stacks of tubs containing the sack lunches. They unlocked the closet and placed 100 sacks on the shelves. They obviously knew what they were doing.
The Veerkamps are quick to deflect praise or gratitude from themselves and onto a group of women (that now includes Mary) who have been packing and delivering sack lunches since 2004. They estimate that they have sent 15,900 lunches to Trinity Center! They call themselves FastPax, and most of the lady packers live in Georgetown. Patrick is an invaluable semi-member, serving as half of the monthly delivery duo.
“We all pitch in to purchase the food and pack the lunch sacks,” says Mary. “We meet together at someone’s home on the first Saturday of each month, and then Patrick and I deliver on the first Sunday of the month. We have come up with a very efficient assembly line, and we can pack 100 lunches in about two hours — or a bit longer depending on how much we gab. To date we estimate that we have provided 15,900 lunches for the Trinity Center.”
That’s a staggering number! The group has changed over time, but includes, left to right in the photo: Emily Northrop and Julie Jansen (front row); Susan Wukasch, Mary Veerkamp, Francis Jansen, Robin Mueller and Lynn O’Neill (back row). Nancy Woods also is a member but not in the photo. Mary came on board in 2010 at the invitation of Emily, who has been with the group since its inception.
“Emily was a member of St. David’s and a Trinity Center volunteer and told me about FastPax,” Mary says. “Since Patrick and I were members of St. David’s, we volunteered to make the deliveries.”
Trinity Center is the lone recipient of this generous group, and it’s obvious that quite a bit of thought goes into the contents of each lovingly packed sack.
“We try to select items that are ready to eat, healthy-ish, won’t spoil quickly — and are tasty,” Mary says.
Besides the physical sustenance the sack lunches provide, these generous acts of kindness come with deeper intentions.
“We are all spiritual in one way or another, and our members are affiliated with a variety of religious denominations — including Episcopal, Methodist and Quaker,” said Mary. “To be sure we are inspired by the words and example of Jesus. I would also suggest that we are a socially conscious group that understands the benefits and privileges we inherited, earned and enjoy. We understand that not everyone, for one reason or another, is as fortunate as we are. We believe that we share a responsibility to care for our less fortunate brothers and sisters.”
As FastPax stuffs the 16,000th sack for the October supply and the Veerkamps prepare to deliver them, they refer to their service as “a simple act of love,” one they hope will fill hearts as well as bellies.
“We hope they feel that love and know that someone truly does care about them,” Mary said.
Whether they want or need our gratitude — which clearly they don’t, because the Veerkamps sneak in and out without a peep — Trinity Center is thankful and truly blessed by their gifts. If they decide to change their name from FastPax, I would suggest Saint Sackers — but they would never go for that!