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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines metro has seen a stark increase in the amount of people who use food pantries. Of those, the hardest hit pantry was Bidwell Riverside Center. They have had a 27 percent  jump in clients over the last year.  The only way they can keep pace is with the help of volunteers.

Three times a week no matter the weather, nor how difficult the route, Sonia Alarcon makes the trip to Bidwell Riverside to do her part.

“We need her every day. We need her here 8 hours a day, every day. But we can’t have her eight hours a day every day,” said Jim Reese, Bidwell Riverside Center.

Only three staff members work at a time at the center. Sonia is one of a hundred volunteers. Those volunteers work to keep the busy pantry running each month. Sonya sticks out from the crowd to the staff members. They say she is one in a million.

“If we didn’t find another one like her we’d be struggling quite hard,” says Reese.

“She does what she does just by helping us out. She does it out of the goodness of her heart without expecting anything in return,” said Desiree Funke, Bidwell Riverside.

Alarcon goes beyond giving to those who visit the pantry.  She understands, knowing herself, what it’s like to go without.

“I feel happy right here. Some people give to me when I don’t have anything these people help to me a lot,” said Alarcon.

She connects those at the pantry not only with her warmth but also her words.  “I like to do it like that (translate for Spanish speakers) because I remember when I come to the United States and I didn’t speak English. It’s hard, I cried,” said Alarcon.

Reese knows how important Alarcon is to the pantry.  “Sometime people are a little reluctant because they have never been here. Regardless of their nationality or culture,  She’ll make all people, not just Latinos, all people feel comfortable.”

Sonia is proof you only need just a little to give a lot.

“My favorite part is when I see the faces,” said Alarcon.  “Maybe that’s why god don’t make me rich… because I’d give it all away.”

The good karma of volunteering has paid off for the mother of seven.  Since we began interviewing Sonia two weeks ago, she has landed a part time job after being laid off for some time.