By Stacy Bernal
This year has seen some major contentions and a country divided over the presidential elections. In the aftermath of Election Day, there seemed to be rampant hate and negativity, nationwide and close to home here in Ogden. A friend mentioned to me how overwhelmingly sad she was feeling about everything going on, so to combat those feelings she wanted to do something good, something positive. This is how I learned about the Burrito Project.
From the website, burritoproject.org:
“People helping people
Burrito Project is a group of friends that feeds the hungry and homeless in cities around the world, encouraging people ‘to get together with friends and build burritos to take to the streets’. No political, religious, or party views of sorts.”
My friend invited me to her house on a November Sunday morning to take part in the project. I had a prior commitment in the afternoon, so I only had time to help roll the burritos before she and two other friends took them out to distribute. I was bummed to miss out on that part, so I figured I would just organize another one.
I posted some information within my running group’s Facebook page and had a lot of interest. I created an event for December 4th, a Sunday morning following a Saturday night of many festivities. Everyone had committed to bringing certain food items and part of me worried that they’d be too hungover to make it that morning.
My Ogden Pub Runner friends promptly started showing up at the scheduled 9 am, arms full of burrito fixings and hearts full of love. (And let’s be honest, bellies still full of beer and wine.) Each time the doorbell rang and another friend entered the room, I became more impressed with this great group of people. One friend, Janet, was in the middle of packing her home as she gets ready to deploy to North Carolina for the next seven months. There were so many other things everyone could have been doing that morning, yet here they were. Those beautiful people included Kimberly Aikens, Mark and Rachel Balboni, David and Brittany Blanchard, Shelly Bush, Alison Corey, Janet Eberle, Kim Emerson, Kyle Gerber, Kristin Johnson-Orgill, Sarah Pomeroy and Tracy Valdez.
The energy was high and everyone was chatty and excited, happy to be there. We set up assembly lines on the kitchen counter and dining room table, and busily got to rolling. In about 45 minutes we had rolled over 100 burritos full of eggs, sausage, cheese and hash browns. One of our group members, Kyle, had stopped by Taco Time to purchase sauce packets to go with the burritos. When he explained what they were for, the manager gave him a box of sauce, free of charge. We taped those to the foil on each of the burritos. We packed them up and headed to Historic 25th Street in downtown Ogden.
Ogden is awesome- trust me on this. There are hoodies, hats, T-shirts and mugs that tout this exact tagline. But there is a very noticeable homeless and poor population. On any given day they can be seen hanging out in parks or walking the streets. Yet on this particular day, we had a hard time immediately finding anyone. We split up and covered 25th Street. Then my group headed over to The Salvation Army. We passed a few people here and there and happily offered them a burrito. Each time, the recipient’s face would light up as they graciously took the shiny little bundle. You would have thought we were handing them actual blocks of silver.
We didn’t have any luck at The Salvation Army so we headed over to the Rescue Mission. Along the way we passed two LDS missionaries. Shelly ran over and handed them each a burrito. I couldn’t help but wonder what they would think if they had known we were a group of libation-loving runners. We also had no luck at the rescue mission, so we headed back to our cars and drove further south to a shelter called The Lantern House.
This is where we ran out of burritos. Somehow we had exactly enough to hand one out to every person there. A large crowd was gathered outside under a pavilion, as well as a handful of people sitting outside the building. A few families huddled in cars for warmth. I handed burritos to a man and woman and a young boy who was probably about eight. The gratitude in each of these people’s face was priceless. What we were doing was such a small gesture but you wouldn’t have thought that based on the receivers’ reactions. Who knew a burrito could bring such joy?
I asked everyone to share some thoughts on what the Burrito Project meant to them. Here are some of their answers:
Janet: “Right towards the end of passing out along 25th Street we ran into quite a few people by the amphitheater. The last man I gave a burrito to asked if it had cheese in it. Since I screwed up the start time and didn’t help roll, I didn’t know. He looked inside and got the biggest smile when he saw there was cheese. Like cheese was the best thing in his world and a huge luxury. Everyone we gave food to was appreciative, but this guy had his day made because he got to have cheese.”
Kristin: “My moment was when four of us wandered off on our own and encountered the oddest van with a family living inside. They were so appreciative of something simple like a burrito. I felt a sadness to my core to see the reality that some families do live that way- by choice or by circumstance. I’m so grateful that I can provide my child with more. He doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from.”
Alison: “The timing of this project was perfect–My motivation to participate was Christmas–we get so wrapped up in our own Christmas festivities that we tend to forget that there are so many less fortunate people out there. Serving someone who is less fortunate a breakfast burrito on a cold winter morning was very rewarding.”
Mark: “It inspired us to want to do more. And it was fun to see people in our group of friends get out of their comfort zone and participate. It takes some bravery to approach a stranger and offer them a burrito.”
The best part of the Burrito Project is that ANYONE, ANYWHERE can do it. And it doesn’t have to be a burrito. Small acts of kindness can go a long way. We can be the change we wish to see in the world. We can each do a small part to improve our communities, our lives, and the lives of others. We didn’t just build burritos- we built our friendships with each other and love within our Ogden community.