Volunteer fills special niche at DESC

Eileen Smith serves in the food pantry, handing out food, greeting clients at Downtown Ecumenical Services Council.

Looking for something to do when she moved to Jacksonville two years ago, Eileen Smith discovered quickly that the Downtown Ecumenical Services Council (DESC) was the perfect place for her to serve as a volunteer.

“When I first moved to Jacksonville in September 2015, I needed something to do and my sister suggested DESC,” she said.

“I needed someplace close to my home and somewhere that would not require me to travel around the Jacksonville since I had no idea where the different areas were,” Smith said. “I wanted something church-based. I also volunteer at St. Francis Soup Kitchen, which is run by the Catholic Church two blocks away from DESC.”

Smith, who has volunteered at DESC two days a week for the past 18 months, serves in the food pantry, handing out food, greeting clients and entering their names in the computer. “I feel blessed to be able to work with the great staff at DESC and to help people who are living on the margins of life. They are just like everyone else – some are kind and grateful and have a beautiful spirit while others are angry and grumpy. They all need assistance, and it is wonderful when we are able to provide them with this assistance.”

Smith said she finds her work at the DESC food pantry “exciting,” and “satisfying.” DESC’s mission includes providing monetary assistance for people having trouble paying rent or their JEA bill, as well as food and clothing for those who have fallen on hard times.

“Some of them cry because they are so thankful for the help we are providing them. They finally get some relief from their fears because they lack sustenance for themselves and their children,” she said.

“If DESC were to close, then our regular clients would be devastated. They would have to find another place to help them, and many of them do not have any transportation or they take the bus from their homes to get food and clothing,” she continued. “It would be a tremendous hardship for them to have to find another outlet to serve their clothing and food needs.”

To read about DESC’s work in the community, click here.