Gratitude Is A Two Way Street

In Windsor County, Pie Guy picks up fresh fruits and veggies monthly from the free produce distribution in his area. He uses the food to feed his family — and to bake a homemade treat that he delivers to distribution volunteers each month.

It’s a cool, rainy day in Springfield, Vermont. In a parking lot, rows of cars line up to pick up fresh produce at the monthly VeggieVanGo food distribution that you help support. Hundreds have come out for the event, as has been the case since the start of COVID-19 well over a year ago.

The cars pull to a stop. Drivers let volunteers know how many families they’re picking up for. The scramble begins. This week, community members are receiving cucumbers, apples, onions, eggs, sour cream, yogurt, and other fresh vegetables.

“They’ve got turnips! I love turnips,” a woman exclaims as she slows to a stop and pops her trunk to allow the smiling, rain-soaked volunteers to load her car with food. “Thank you!” she hollers as the trunk closes.

And then it’s a volunteer’s voice heard over the sound of trunks closing and friendly banter.

“Hey, it’s Pie Guy!”

Just pulling up is a man who everyone at the Springfield distribution knows as Pie Guy. A soft-spoken “hello” and a bright smile come from the driver-side window. On the passenger seat sits a freshly baked apple pie decorated with artful, pie crust maple leaves.

William the Pie Guy, who retired and moved to the area 11 years ago for “quiet living,” lives with his brother close by.

William comes to the VeggieVanGo, that you help make possible, each month to pick up food and says he relies on the fruits, vegetables, and other items to feed his family.

“I’ll cook the turnips with the potatoes if we get potatoes and stuff, or carrots, and I’ll make some kind of dish with some kind of meat that I have at home in the freezer,” he says. “Whatever they gave out I try to work with, like a lot of onions, I made French onion soup for the family.”

And William always makes a treat for the volunteers helping to distribute food. Typically, it’s a pie, but William says he makes the treats based on what he receives, and sometimes, the food is better suited to other recipes.

“I might switch over to cheesecake once in a while, and tarts, cherry tarts I bring over, and probably zucchini bread,” William says. “Once they gave me a whole bunch of zucchini so I made zucchini bread, and they loved that too … They’re giving out food, why not give back. What they give out, I give back.”

Jim, one of the regular volunteers, confirmed that statement.

“He’s got great pies,” Jim says with a big smile. “The Pie Guy is a fixture at this stop. He’s always kind enough to bring us a pie.”

Jim explains that he’s gotten to know a lot of the people who come to this produce distribution and other sites he volunteers at around the region. Looking out over the parking lot of cars, rain dripping from his yellow slicker, Jim says he’s thankful for the opportunity to help his community. And, he says, the gratitude is always palpable at distributions.

“[The community members are] thankful for everything we’re able to provide to them,” Jim says. “Pie Guy just happens to be one person who actually brings a pie, but there’s been others who brought volunteers coffees on cold winter days. The majority of these people are very happy for all that we’re able to give to them, and that’s why we do this. We do this to help our communities and help our neighbors. That’s why we do it.”

And in this small community, as is true throughout Vermont, there’s been a lot of need over the past year. Sandy works at Springfield Hospital and organizes the VeggieVanGo distribution in the area. As she directs seven lanes of traffic through a maze of orange cones, she reflects on March 2020 and the quick move of distributions from the hospital to a new location.

“We couldn’t manage all of these vehicles up there. I think I wasn’t aware of just how much need there was until we moved down here,” she says, her arm constantly in motion, waving cars up to the distribution point.

Standing next to crates of apples being bagged and brought to the cars inching their way through the distribution, Jim shares he’s also been affected by the amount of need he’s seeing in the community.

“It takes your breath away when you come to a VeggieVanGo and see 500 families getting food,” he says. “You’re making a difference in peoples’ lives, that’s what it’s about.”

As for Pie Guy, he said his pies are a way for him to say thank you to the volunteers. And as the holiday season approaches, William says he’s looking forward to the pies he’ll bring the volunteers as Thanksgiving gets nearer.

“Probably pumpkin, pumpkin pie,” he says. “It’s traditional, pumpkin.”

But on this day, it’s apple pie that he’s delivering, a sweet offering of gratitude for the friends he’s come to know at the Springfield site. And he feels the appreciation from volunteers.

“When I bring over the apple pie … they love it, they love the design, they love the apples.”

And, volunteers pause, and are reminded of the power of community every time Pie Guy pulls through the line.

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