José Barron, 22, began volunteering two days a week at the World Vision Storehouse in Fife, Washington, two years ago.
“I like volunteering here because I notice that I love working with people,” José says. “I love my job. Coming here has changed my life.”
The Storehouse provides school supplies, diapers, clothing, building materials, Family Food Kits, and more to small charities to distribute through their ministries to local families who are in need -- either because of a natural disaster or other crisis, or because of poverty.
The operation can’t succeed without volunteers, and José is among the most committed of these faithful servants.
“Wherever they wanted me to be, I just be there, because I know that I don’t do it for me, I don’t do it for no one else, I just do it for the Lord,” says José.
He loved volunteering at the Storehouse so much that he eventually started coming every day. He’d wake up at 4:30 each morning to catch four different buses from his home in Kent to get to the Storehouse in Fife by 7 or 8 a.m. The trip home at night sometimes took longer.
After a few months, staff at the Storehouse found out about José’s exhausting commute, and began giving him rides.
“Workers here, they’ve been more than friends,” says José. “They’ve been almost like a family to me.”
José has become especially close with Storehouse manager Reed Slattery.
“I told Reed [that] he’s been almost like a dad to me,” says José. “My dad is not here with me, but I get that love that I’ve never gotten from him.”
Reed feels the same way. “José has become part of our family,” he says. “He’s a great friend of mine. He’s got the biggest heart of anybody that I’ve ever met. He’s always thinking about somebody else.”
As the oldest of the four children, José feels the burden of providing for and protecting his family, especially because his dad isn’t around. “Trying to keep the house standing, it’s not easy,” says José.
José’s family moved to the United States from Mexico when he was just 9. His single mother struggled to make ends meet. She found work cleaning houses, but it wasn’t always enough to support her four growing kids. The family would often go without dinner a couple of nights a week.
“She’d be scared to let us know that, ‘You know what, I’m sorry, but we won’t be able to eat tonight,’” says José.
Because he knows what it is to be hungry, he now does his part to make sure there are enough groceries.
“When I started volunteering here, this is the way that I’ve been blessed a lot. The food kits that I get to take home have been so amazing,” says José.
These Family Food Kits have enough food to feed a family of five for a day. They have dry goods like macaroni and cheese, rice and beans, and lentil soup. Sometimes José gets to take a few home from the Storehouse.
“One of the things I like about the food kits is the lentil soup, because it reminds me of my home back in Mexico,” says José.
No one understands the people that the Storehouse serves better than José. “I know sometimes when we do the food kits, or I hear different stories from people, it touches me because I live that story, and it’s not easy,” he says.
As José greets people at the Storehouse, they are more than customers to him. He’s seen tears in people’s eyes as they fill up their carts and say thank you.
“They get so amazed by the things we’re giving them,” says José. “It makes me realize that everything I’m doing is changing someone’s life.”
For a man who works more than 40 hours per week without pay, it would seem that José has enough on his plate. But recently, he’s taken up another hobby -- running.
In February, Reed encouraged him to run a 5k, and José agreed. Then they started training together for a half marathon in June.
“I’m running for Team World Vision. It’s 13 miles and I feel like I’m already ready to run it. I’m raising money to send to Africa to send clean water down there. I’m doing it because I wanna do it for other kids,” says José.
On June 22, José finished the half marathon in Seattle in 2 hours and 41 minutes. “Jose raised $395 by himself and we had over $600 come in for the team -- and most of that was because of him,” Reed says.
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Epilogue: Shortly after this interview, José was offered a full-time job at the World Vision Storehouse in Fife, Washington. His first day of work fell on July 1, his 22nd birthday. He said it was the best birthday he’s ever had.
Abby Stalsbroten is an associate photo producer with World Vision U.S.
Make a one-time donation to help feed U.S. children and families in need. Each World Vision Family Food Kit includes nutritious meals like oatmeal, lentil soup, pasta, and bean-and-rice casserole. Your gift can help fill the gap during these summer months, when many children are out of school and thus lose the stability and dependability of hot meals each day.