Local Girl Scouts Join Tzu Chi in Contributing to NJ Food Distribution

Mid-Atlantic  |  March 15, 2024
The Girl Scouts used their winter break to participate in food distribution activities at the Tzu Chi USA Mid-Atlantic Region Food Pantry with Tzu Chi volunteers from Texas. Photo / Wankang Wang

Written by Wenqi Zhuang
Translated by Janet Li, Andrew Larracuente
Edited by Ariel Chan

On February 23, 2024, amidst the winter break, while many schools across the United States were closed, the Girl Scouts in the New Jersey area utilized their vacation time to visit the Food Pantry of Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic and participate in food distribution alongside Tzu Chi volunteers, bringing warmth to the cold weather.

Located in Cedar Grove, NJ, in northern New Jersey, Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic has collaborated closely with the local community for over twenty years, dedicating itself to food distribution and community service. The branch frequently welcomes visitors from the community and school groups to participate in food distribution services. On November 10, 2023, it hosted the first group of Girl Scouts, and three months later, on February 23, 2024, it welcomed the second group of Girl Scouts, including six members from Closter Troop 163, Closter Troop 63, and Tenafly Troop 86. These scouts and Tzu Chi volunteers participated in food distribution activities. The parents who led the Scouts for the second time also invited three relatives from Texas to join them in spreading warmth.

Smooth and Successful Team Collaboration

Before food distribution, Tzu Chi volunteers and Scout group members put their hands together in prayer.
Before the food distribution, Tzu Chi volunteers and members of the Girl Scouts group joined hands in prayer. Photo/Wankang Wang

Since it was raining on the food distribution day, Tzu Chi volunteers quickly set up tents and arranged the distribution area. Afterward, they used electric handling equipment to transport much food to the distribution site. Together with the scouts, they neatly and orderly moved dry goods onto tables in the distribution area and distributed them to people who came to collect food.

The Scouts brought the food to the table and prepared it for distribution.
The scouts collectively moved the food onto the table in preparation for distribution. Photo/Wankang Wang
The Scout team and Tzu Chi volunteers worked together to distribute food.
The scout team and Tzu Chi volunteers worked seamlessly together to distribute the food. Photo/Wankang Wang

Keeran, who participated in food distribution for the first time, comes from a privileged background. She was happy to be able to help everyone firsthand while feeling fortunate that she didn’t need to queue up for food in her day-to-day life. This event helped her understand that not everyone in New Jersey, USA, enjoys the same abundance, and there are many people in need. Being able to contribute a little bit of her effort to help others made her very happy.

Second Time Enjoying Volunteer Work

In addition to the six Girl Scouts participating in food distribution, Nikki, the parent leading the scout group for the second time, invited three Texas relatives to join the warming activity, demonstrating their love across regions. Nikki believes that stepping into the community to help more people is a significant thing to do. Furthermore, Nikki also embraced the spirit of the Bamboo Bank, returning a heavy one. She donated her collected funds to the Sea of Merit, hoping to help more needy people.

At the food distribution site, Nikki’s daughter Maddy, relatives from Texas, and the lively and cheerful girl Candra added a bright touch to the event. Maddy, who is participating in food distribution for the second time, revealed that their family enjoys volunteering because they enjoy helping others. The reason she participated again was that she wanted to contribute to the community once more. When asked about the difference between the first and second times she participated in food distribution, Maddy admitted that she was confused the first time and didn’t know what to do. However, now she gradually understands how to help others and feels she can do more.

This is the second time that parent Nikki has led the scout group to participate in food distribution.
Parent Nikki led the Girl Scouts group for the second time to participate in food distribution. Photo/Wankang Wang
New Jersey volunteers pose for photos with members of a visiting Scout group.
Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic volunteers and visiting members of the Girl Scouts group take a commemorative photo together. Photo/Wankang Wang

Candra participated in a food distribution activity for the first time. She confessed that she had come along with Maddy. At first, she was nervous, but now she knows what to do and feels she is helping more people.

From the conversation of these two girls, it can be seen that they have a severe attitude and enthusiasm for participating in public welfare activities. They are willing to dedicate their time and energy to helping those in need. The entire food distribution operation proceeded smoothly and received unanimous praise from them. Candra and Maddy stated that everything at the food pantry was well arranged, the volunteers worked in an orderly manner, and each person took items according to their tasks, making the participants feel very relaxed.

Learning to Quickly Register with Digital Cards

Tzu Chi volunteers explained to the Scouts how to operate the computer on-site to verify the care recipient’s card ID.
Tzu Chi volunteers explain to the Girl Scouts how to operate the computer to verify the care recipient's card ID on-site. Photo/Wankang Wang

Girl Scout Natalia is responsible for computer data entry at the food distribution station. Her primary duty for the day is to assist food recipients in registering. She walks up to the care recipient’s car, takes their card, and scans it with the computer. The system automatically displays relevant information, including the cardholder’s name and the card’s validity. Then, she returns the card to the care recipient and places a number card on the windshield of the care recipient’s car, indicating that they have completed registration.

Scouts Natalia (left) and Katheryn (middle) swipe their cards to register those who receive food on site.
Girl Scouts Natalia (left) and Katheryn (middle) swipe cards for food recipients to register on-site. Photo/Wankang Wang
Scout Natalia was interviewed to share her feelings.
Girl Scout Natalia shares her feelings through an interview. Photo/Wankang Wang

Natalia said that in most cases, it only requires scanning the care recipient’s card with the computer, and the system will automatically display the relevant information, making the entire registration process faster and more efficient. Natalia feels excellent about helping others today. She believes that being able to help many people in such an event is a great thing, and such opportunities are not expected. Natalia’s enthusiasm and positive attitude demonstrate her commitment and care for community service.

Texas Relatives Came from Afar to Spread Warmth

Texas volunteering relative Pubukins expressed that this was his first time participating in Tzu Chi’s food distribution activity. He didn’t know much about Tzu Chi before, but when he heard about food distribution, he decided to come and help. His main task was to put fresh fruits and vegetables into the cars of gratitude recipients. Pubukins was amazed at how smoothly the event went and expressed respect and appreciation to everyone involved

Boy Scout Jeevan Patel interviewed.
Boy Scout Jeevan Patel is being interviewed. Photo/Wankang Wang

At the food distribution site, everyone has their own tasks, just like gears in a machine. Every small part works together to ensure everything runs smoothly. Now I can also help people register, which makes me realize that many people need help.

Suixi volunteers Maria (right) and Pubkins (third from right) from Texas share their feelings.
Texas volunteering relatives Mariah (right) and Pubukins (right three) share their feelings. Photo/Wankang Wang
After the food distribution, Zhang Cijin, CEO of the New Jersey branch, presented auspicious dragon pendants and Fuhui red envelopes to the Scouts.
After the food distribution, Tzu Chi Midwest Chief Executive Cijin Zang gifted the scouts with auspicious dragon ornaments and Fuwei red envelopes. Photo/Wankang Wang

Another Texas volunteering relative, Mariah joined the food distribution activity with friends and family. Mariah said she came to help at the invitation of a friend, hoping to serve the community with those in need. She was amazed when Mariah learned that the New Jersey food pantry distributes nearly 500 boxes of fruits and vegetables each time. She praised the scale and impact of the food distribution event and the usual dedication and effort of the food pantry volunteers.

Tzu Chi volunteers also explained the meaning of the words on the blessing and wisdom red envelopes to the Scouts and volunteers from Texas.
Tzu Chi volunteers described to scouts and Texan volunteers the meaning on the Fuwei red envelopes. Photo/Wankang Wang

The Scout troop members wore smiles as they participated in food distribution throughout the day. Despite not complaining or showing signs of fatigue, they demonstrated a positive attitude and an optimistic mindset. Through this food distribution event, they understood the meaning of “appreciating blessings, cherishing blessings, and creating blessings.” They learned that it’s essential to respect material goods and cherish the people around them.

After the food distribution concluded, Cijin Zhang, the executive director of Tzu Chi Midwest, specially presented the Scouts with auspicious dragon ornaments and Fuwei red envelopes, symbolizing good fortune and wisdom. This gesture was a token of gratitude and an encouraging blessing for the Scouts. At the same time,  Amy Hsieh introduced Tzu Chi’s origin and philanthropic philosophy to the Scouts, hoping they would continue to grow through their contributions and spread love.

This event not only brought tangible assistance to the community but also inspired the Girl Scouts to understand the concepts of love and dedication. It allowed them to engage with society and enrich their Girl Scout lives as they continue to grow.

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