Time Well Spent for Individuals Volunteering at the Food Bank
Pledge This Year is an ongoing blog series throughout the month of January focused on volunteering with Good Shepherd Food Bank. It showcases the diversity of individuals and organizations that volunteer with the Food Bank and encourages readers to make the pledge to volunteer in 2017.
By Ryan Fecteau, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
Those who volunteer at Good Shepherd Food Bank arrive to our front door from a multitude of pathways. Some volunteers jump at opportunities provided by their employers to lend a hand in their communities and others join the Food Bank on behalf of their educational institutions. However, not all of those donating their time do so with a group. Some are individuals who find they have extra time and an urge to do good.
That is the case for Kathy Wyatt of Pownal. She worked for L.L. Bean in Freeport for several decades and decided she needed something to do in retirement. She committed to a few volunteer opportunities over the years and often found herself twiddling her thumbs rather than being assigned a task. Her experience working in the L.L. Bean warehouse as a customer service and problem resolution technician attracted her to the Food Bank’s warehouse in Auburn.
“[The warehouse setting] was something I was familiar with,” shares Wyatt. “What I like about the [Food Bank] is you always stay busy. You don’t stand around.”
Wyatt has kept busy at our warehouse for three years now. She helps sort food provided to the Food Bank by retail donors. The food often arrives in crates and requires inspection to determine whether product has been damaged during transport or expiration dates have surpassed guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As Wyatt described, there are always new things to learn on the sorting line about the food and the process.
“It’s impressive what you do [on the sorting line],” adds Wyatt. “Taking all of that food and turning it into something for people.”
She also jumped at a unique opportunity a few years ago to start a demonstration garden in front of the Food Bank’s entranceway. The garden features a variety of vegetables and herbs. Wyatt hoped the garden would serve as a mechanism for educating visitors, volunteers, and pantry staff about the means to growing plants in raised beds. Showcasing nutritious produce aligns with the Food Bank’s mission to distribute Maine grown foods to families struggling with hunger. In fact, Wyatt noted her appreciation for the Food Bank’s work to deliver nutritious, fresh foods to families.
“Even in three years that I’ve been there, I have seen change,” she reflects. “Now, there is a separate sort on soda and unhealthy foods. It is offered, but not front and center like the nutritious food. There is so much fresh produce.”
Of course, jumping into a brand new setting and starting a demonstration garden did not happen overnight for her. Yet, according to Wyatt, the welcoming atmosphere for a new volunteer made things easier. She noted the flexible scheduling also helped make the commitment doable. Volunteers can choose the days and hours that they desire. As Wyatt emphasized, all of the work and time is appreciated.
“I recommend that people do try it. Walking into a place is—you don’t always know where you sit,” acknowledges Wyatt. “They really do make an effort to provide a comfortable and welcoming experience. Even if you don’t volunteer right off, come visit and check out what the Food Bank does.”
For more information about volunteering at Good Shepherd Food Bank, contact Bethany Tatro at 207-782-3554 ext 1169 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit https://www.gsfb.org/get-involved/volunteer/ for more information.
You can make the pledge to volunteer in 2017, visit Feeding America’s website: http://www.feedingamerica.org/take-action/campaigns/volunteer/