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BEAN Headquarters Blog

Change in Latitude, Continuing Gratitude
Guest blog by Wil Woodward, chapter president of BEAN @ Greenville.

I have been a pretty lucky person in the great scheme of things. I've never been hungry or homeless, and have always had my needs met. I feel fortunate for this and hope I never take it for granted. This is something I never thought much about until I moved to Seattle several years ago and came face to face with those less fortunate on an almost daily basis.

In college I volunteered with my fraternity, sometimes at the soup kitchen or meals on wheels, but overall my exposure was still pretty insulated and infrequent. I grew up in Greenville, SC and we just didn't really have homeless people that I knew of. In fact, I can still remember the first time I saw a person on the street and it registering to me that they probably didn't have a home to go to. I was in Atlanta and I was 15.

Well, needless to say I was exposed rather quickly to those less fortunate when I moved to Seattle and it didn't take long before I felt that I had a moral obligation to help when I had the opportunity. That's when I found BEAN, and was able to forge relationships with other young professionals who wanted to meet like minded people and try to give back to the community while having fun. This was a win-win situation for me and I am still grateful for the friendships and experiences I was able to build.

My involvement with BEAN also taught me that there is always a need for volunteers. From after-school programs for children or helping those less fortunate to environmental causes and animal shelters, there is always something I can do to help make a difference. Unfortunately, as wonderful as Seattle was, it didn't have my family and I was forced to make the difficult decision to move back to South Carolina.

After the initial shock of being back in the deep south wore off, I started to realize there was something missing from my life...service. I also came back with a new perspective and began to look for ways to have a positive impact on the community. There are many differences between the southeast and the northwest, but the one fundamental similarity is people. And wherever there are people, there will be a need.

My experiences in Seattle made me more aware of what was going on in the community around me, and this newfound perspective allowed me to see that my humble hometown was not immune to the devastating effects of an economic downturn such as hunger and homelessness. The naive idea that, “That just doesn’t happen around here” was suddenly gone.

In 2010 alone Harvest Hope Food Bank supplied food for 2,037,496 individuals, which was staggering to me when I realized that according to the 2010 census the population of South Carolina is 4,625,384. Suddenly my insulated view of South Carolina was gone and I saw that there was plenty to do in my home state.

More and more ways to serve and help others are shown everyday both locally and globally, and I am grateful that I can be a part of the process of giving back. The therapeutic value of helping others is better than any counseling or medicine I have ever encountered, and it's a sustainable resource. I still believe that I have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate, and I relish every opportunity to do so, but I also realize that I am the one who really benefits from giving back.

Through philanthropic activities with BEAN I have gained perspective, self-worth and some of the greatest friends a guy could ask for. There really is more to life, and BEAN is an excellent vehicle to experience all there is to offer!

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