Susan Zyserman volunteering at the Max Block Food Pantry

For over six years Susan Zyserman has volunteered with The LJD Jewish Family & Community Services, delivering meals to Holocaust survivors, seniors or clients; helping with the Holiday Giving Program; and working in the Max Block Food Pantry. We recently asked Susan about her experience volunteering and why it’s important to her. What follows is her response.

Sometimes when you work at the pantry, you see things that you can’t believe.

One sight that comes to mind is an elderly man, likely in his early 80’s. Very clean-cut gentleman. Sharply dressed, most of the time in a full suit – even when it’s 100 degrees outside in the Florida heat. He walks to the food pantry and carries with him a rolling suitcase. I don’t know where he comes from, but I’m guessing it’s fairly close.

He comes to the pantry as often as possible to get food for his family. I always wondered about him. I wondered where he lived, why he needed so much food, what his situation was, but of course, I never wanted to ask.

One day, he said to me, “I bet you are wondering why I am here so often.”

I answered and said, “No. I just figured you had a need and that’s why you come. Either that or you just like to come and see me.” We both laughed.

He asked me if he could sit for a moment, alluding to the fact that he was a bit overheated. I reached out and took his arm and guided him into the lobby of our Allison Stein Robbins Building. We sat down.

He began, “My wife and me take care of our two teenage grandsons. We live on a fixed income since my wife lost her job when the pandemic happened. We can’t afford to feed the boys everything they need to eat to be healthy growing boys. They need protein and we just can’t afford very much right now with inflation.”

I placed my hand on his and told him I understood, that everyone was struggling right now. I explained that was why the Max Block Food Pantry was here – to provide meals to those struggling to feed their families and told him he was not alone, that many in our community were experiencing the same thing.

“It’s sometimes embarrassing to have to come here all the time. I know the food pantry is here for us, but we have always been the ones who have given and supported others. It’s a struggle for us to now have to depend on others ourselves.”

I told him not to worry himself about that; that no one at JFCS will ever judge him.

He smiled, and then got up, I got up, too and went to go get his bag of groceries – this week was extra special and I was able to give him a whole chicken, eggs, salmon, cheese and butter as extras. The man – I don’t even know his name – gave me a hug and said, “Thank you for listening and thank you for doing what you do.”

With that, he left.

This is one of the many reasons I volunteer with The LJD Jewish Family & Community Services. I truly believe in the mission and the programs/services that the organization provides to the ENTIRE community. They give so much and ask so little in return. I am very proud to be a part of JFCS.

Thank you, Susan. We are fortunate to have your support and appreciate everything you do for the community!

JFCS recently launched its annual Max Block Food Pantry Match Challenge. Now through July 31, every monetary donation to our food pantry is matched by donations from Jacksonville’s Block family. In addition to the heightened demand due in part to rising inflation, we typically see an increase in usage during the summer months when children who benefit during the school year from reduced-cost or free school breakfasts and lunches are out of school, so this year’s annual challenge will be critical to raising the funds needed to keep the pantry stocked throughout the year.

In 2021, the Max Block Food Pantry served nearly 140,000 meals to more than 15,000 clients. We served another 1,300 children and families through two school satellite programs. We anticipate even higher numbers this year.

If you’d like to give and see your dollars go twice as far to help individuals and families make ends meet, click on the “Donate” button below, and thank you in advance for your generous support.