Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Twice or sometimes three times a month, a group of volunteers gather in our warehouse to box food for our Food for Children and Extra Helpings programs.
Most of the volunteers for this project are retired and see volunteer opportunities with the Food Bank as a chance to do something productive and worthwhile with their free time and many of them have been a part of the boxing team for quite some time.
When Jim Denels retired about 11 years ago, he decided to volunteer regularly with the Food Bank. He also volunteers at a prison as a math teacher to prepare inmates for their GEDs. When explaining what inspired him to get involved he said, “My first job ever was a social worker so I was aware of problems in the community and people who don’t quite have enough to get by.”
Barbara and Rod Levander was given the suggestion to become involved with the Food Bank by their daughter who works for Women, Infants and Childrens (WIC), a food and nutrition service program. “We know it’s (the help) needed,” said Mrs. Levander. For the past ten years, the Levanders have been sorting and boxing food at the Food Bank. Sometimes they even participate in the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive by helping unload bags of food out of postal trucks.
The Levanders inspired another retired couple, Victor and Fran Smith, to help at the boxing project. They also sort food and have gone to distributions and describe their experience as “very rewarding” since they know that the “food is going to go to someone special”.
From putting boxes together to pulling flat bed carts to bending over to pack food, the Food Bank’s boxing project can be laborious, but can just as easily dual as a social event. “With this particular group, it’s almost a social occasion,” said Denels. Most agreed that one of the best parts of getting together for the project was to be able to socialize with each other.
Besides enjoying the company of each other, they all have a big heart and are eager to make a difference. When talking to another volunteer, Jim Gray said, “Instead of advocating a solution to a problem, we’re actually fixing a problem.”