The Blessings of Controlled Panic

By Jean Blish Siers *

Carl Leonard at Refugee Support Services

Carl Leonard’s last day
at Refugee Support Services

Part of my job (honestly, a lot of my job) involves controlled panic. I get a call that a farmer has 10,000 pounds of watermelons that need to be out of his cooler in two days, and I panic a bit, then get busy on the phones, and a miracle happens. It always does. Every time.

My panic increased over the past couple months. For more than four years, the same crew of four drivers has each taken one Wednesday a month to make the 60-mile round trip to a distribution warehouse to pick up a load of produce to bring to our partner agency, Refugee Support Services. Very seldom have I ever had to find a substitute for anyone on this crew. Occasionally they’d swap weeks if vacations or doctor’s appointments interfered. I’ve worked with them through chemo treatments, loss of parents, and other things that life throws at us.

Then in February, Carl Leonard, my third-Wednesday driver, told me it would be his last month as our driver. His grandson was going off to school and needed his truck. Okay, I panicked. Carl had been an unfailingly cheerful presence from the day I took the job. I scrolled through my contacts. I had a driver to local pantries who had worked with us a good bit over the last couple years. He knew the distributor. I took a chance and sent an email telling him about the ministry, the distance, and the routine. I told him he could tell me “no,” and he was free to tell me “no” and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. He wrote back almost immediately, “I can do this.” And I breathed a sigh of relief.

But I relaxed too soon. Carolyn Pais, our fourth-Wednesday driver, called to tell me she and her husband were moving to the beach, fulfilling a longtime dream. I will miss her friendly phone calls and positive attitude. And her amazing dependability. More panic. Sure, I could find one new driver willing to go 60 miles once a month. But two? Within two months?

I thought on it. Lost a little sleep. Then one of my long-time local drivers called to tell me he was thinking of “retiring.”  We talked. I’ve loved working with him and we’ve shared good times and bad over the years. In conversation, I asked if he had ever been to Refugee Support Services in all his years with us and he said he hadn’t. I told him I was looking for a monthly Wednesday driver, and he said, “Oh, I can do that!” A friend can help with the driving, and the regular route will allow them to plan for the shared trip.

So we bid a fond farewell to Carl Leonard and we welcome George White, who drove his first route this week! We wish traveling mercies for Carolyn Pais, and we welcome Asa Myers and his friend Vernon Rogers.

Who knows what calls people to certain ministries? I just know I’m grateful to the people who feel called to Society of St. Andrew! Who say, “Yes, I can do that!” when I ask them crazy things in my moments of panic. And because they know the value of bringing fresh, nutritious produce to a community that desperately needs not only the food, but also the knowledge that after traveling halfway around the world, their new community loves them.

*Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator.




In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.