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Food Bank Ambassadors

The Ambassadors are a unique kind of volunteer at the Food Bank. They serve as a public face for us to local businesses, community organizations, social clubs, and at events as well as being an advocate for the Food Bank’s programs and services.

Food Bank Ambassador Linda Elsdon tabling at Fentons in Vacaville

On this one-year anniversary of the Food Bank Ambassador program, we think back to the many events our Ambassadors have joyfully attended on our behalf such as the Wells Fargo Annual Volunteer Fair, National Train Day in Martinez, Richmond’s Music on the Main, Celebrate Everyday Heroes Golf Tournament in Orinda, Music in the Park at Suisun City Library, “Healthy Sunday” in Pittsburg, Winterhawk Winery in Suisun and they will attend the upcoming Kaiser Richmond Employee Wellness Fair and the Loma Vista Farm Harvest Festival.

Some of these volunteers have bilingual skills to help us reach more of our Spanish-speaking donors and clients, but we hope to increase that number, especially in West and East Contra Costa County.

Thanks to our Ambassadors, the Food Bank is able to increase our outreach at schools, business fairs, and other community events every year. To learn more about our ambassador program, please contact Patty at pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543 extension 243.

United Way Week of Caring

The Food Bank is again proud to be participating in United Way Week of Caring coordinated by the Volunteer Center of the East Bay. This is the 20th Week of Caring and this year 94 nonprofits are participating and receiving volunteer help from 2,700 corporate volunteers to complete 264 projects.

At the Food Bank we were grateful to have Chevron, Eisai Inc., Matson Navigation and Wells Fargo Volunteers help with 7 projects over four days. Chevron volunteers worked at our Rodeo Food Assistance Program site helping to provide groceries for about 300 families totaling over 900 people. Wells Fargo and Matson teams came together to sort and box thousands of pounds of food at our Concord warehouse on Tuesday.

On Wednesday two Wells Fargo teams arrived and worked together and on Thursday a team from Chevron who have helped  for 3 years tackled  bins of fresh plums all afternoon. On Friday Eisai Inc. sorted and boxed food drive in our Fairfield warehouse all morning. It has been an amazing week.

We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to show volunteers what the Food Bank does in our community and to have the help of all of these amazing volunteers.

Chevron Volunteers

Wells Fargo Volunteers

 

Every Action Makes a Difference

Hello volunteers past, present and future! As the Food Bank Manager of Volunteer Services my job is to recruit volunteers. When my children were young my volunteering was mainly at school and with the teams the kids played on. Having a full time job made it difficult for me to find the time to help organizations like the Food Bank back then. Hunger Action Month is an opportunity for busy families and work groups to make a difference around their schedules.

You might be able to get your employer, school, social/service club, church group, etc. involved in Hunger Action Month and help spread the word.  There are some wonderful ways to help. Please take a look at the 30 Ways in 30 Days calendar. This can be a great opportunity to have all ages involved.  Can you write  a poem or story about hunger and share it with friends, school, or family? Please send it to us so we can include it in our blog!

If you are looking for something to do this weekend consider Walnut Creek Family Fest. Don’t forget to bring a can of food and get a $1.00 off admission. Winterhawk Winery is also having an event on Sunday the 4th. Details of these and other upcoming events are on our events page.  Everything you do can make a difference to those in need of help in our community. Hunger Action Month  is a great opportunity to teach your children, family and friends ways they can make their community a better place. I hope that everyone reading this finds something that interests them and share it with others. You can really make a difference and the joy that will bring you is not measurable.

The AT&T Pioneers Dish It Up: Feeding Families Healthy Food

In celebration of the AT&T Pioneers’ 100 years of service, volunteerism and philanthropy, Pioneers are joining together for one of the biggest volunteer efforts in history. Pioneers Dish It Up aims to feed one million people across the U.S. and Canada who face the daily challenge of “food insecurity”.

Between September 11th and 25th, the Pioneers will be addressing the issue of hunger by participating in the Pioneers Dish It Up project, which includes a healthy food drive, as well as other service projects aimed at feeding the hungry.

In partnership with Feeding America and its network of member food banks, a list of healthy food donations has been compiled to guide those who will be participating in the food drive. This project is just the latest effort by our local AT&T Pioneers of the George S. Ladd Council to support the Food Bank and our mission.

 

Backyard Bounty

Pears, Pears, Pears and YES more Pears! When the rain fell in early June, we all worried about the pears in the Alhambra Valley in Martinez and in Moraga. Many people in these two communities have an abundance of pears and love to have volunteers such as the National Charity League pick the pears for us. While the pears may be smaller this year, it seems to be a bountiful year. Thank goodness someone created the pole with the wire cage on the end to help pick the pears. It always seems the best fruit is just out of reach at the top of the tree. My favorite way to eat a pear is sliced in a salad – the pear adds just a little something different to it.

So in the last 5 days, volunteers have picked over 15,000 pounds of pears. That provides a lot of fresh fruit as snacks! I know there are over 230 men, women, teens and children with sore muscles who helped picked all of these beautiful pears. Hours volunteered totaled over 600 hours. WOW! I am exhausted thinking about this all. I think I will have my lunch – hope there is not a pear in my bag…

Health Conscious Volunteer Hopes to See People Eat Better

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County aims to conquer hunger in our area. While it is important to provide as much food as possible for the hungry, the Food Bank wants to make sure it’s at least nutritional and healthy. Volunteer Ellen Potthoff, a Naturopathic Doctor, has a passion for making sure people are eating the right things.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, she said, “Food and digestion is the core of that.” Thinking back to when she began volunteering with the Food Bank in 2001, she said, “I really had a strong feeling people need to know how to eat. So I was hoping to contribute to that.” Now she’s a Food Bank Ambassador, which is a volunteer who represents the Food Bank at different events and outreach activities by handing out information and  speaking publicly on their behalf.

Ellen worked for the Health Physicians Medical Group and is very knowledgeable about the human body. When Kaiser gave the Food Bank a grant for stress management for employees, she taught classes for them since she teaches these at Kaiser. Being a chiropractor as well, she also gave staff upper body massages.

“What people eat and their level of activity has everything to do with how healthy they are and it’s much easier to keep them healthy than it is treating them when they’re not healthy,” said Ellen. She believes medicines are great if a person needs them, but she rather have people maintain a healthy lifestyle without them, since medicine can have some serious side effects and problems.

Fitness expert and body builder Jack LaLanne and Alice Waters, a chef and author, have inspired her and her passion for food. Being at the Food Bank blends in well with her love for food and cooking. She volunteers every Wednesday for three hours and then another three hours on certain Fridays for the boxing project.

The Youth Homes Auxiliary Store is lucky enough to receive help from Ellen as well. The store supports foster kids who are no longer in the system. She also builds trails for Volunteers of California and ushers at the opera in the city.

She really enjoys volunteering for various organizations, especially the Food Bank. “I really like the idea that I’m helping to feed people. That’s important,” she said.

To learn more about the Food Bank Ambassador program, email pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org.

Students Use Their Free Time to Volunteer

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Lazy, rude and immature are words describing a stereotype that has been placed upon today’s younger generation. Of course those words don’t apply to the entire population of young adults.

jacob

Jacob

Many of the kids breaking that stereotype can be found at the Food Bank on various days throughout the week. While some stop in to volunteer every couple of months, some go in to help two or more days a week.

This past summer, in addition to writing articles for this blog, I have been one of those kids seen sorting and boxing food, putting bread on trays or even sweeping up the floor a few times a week. It’s been great to see other people around my age doing the same to give back to their community.

15 year-old Jacob Reynolds, a junior at Clayton Valley High and varsity swimmer, finds time during his school breaks and swim practices to volunteer. “I started volunteering over Thanksgiving break,” he said, “I’ve actually done everything, but stacking.” He finds working at the Food Bank fun and exciting. He said he likes to volunteer because of the people he comes across and the “fact that we’re helping.” Jacob would like to get more of his friends to volunteer at the Food Bank because he thinks they would enjoy it.

The positivity at the Food Bank is one of the attributes that grabs the attention of people. Jeff Schroeder, a 22 year-old

jeff

Jeff

junior at San Francisco State, said “It’s a positive atmosphere.” Since he wasn’t able to find a job this summer, he decided it would be a great idea to volunteer to stay busy.

The Food Bank was his first choice when deciding where to volunteer. When he’s not sorting or boxing food a couple times a week, he’s skateboarding and drumming for his

band Gavilan, who have recently recorded new music.

While most volunteers can be found in the sorting room or on various sites for food distributions, some are found behind a desk in the office. Amelia Spencer has been volunteering since January 2008. “I usually work in the front office with Barbara, answering the phones and helping out in the office with anything,” the 23 year-old said. In the fall and winter, she goes into the Concord office on Mondays and Fridays. In the summer, she helps out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays, she goes with Julie Redmond to her food distribution.

She currently attends Loma Vista, an adult-ed program, but Amelia was unsure of what she wanted to do after high

Amelia

school, so she thought going to the Food Bank would be a great experience that would give her a good sense of work ethic. She finds it rewarding to be involved with the Food Bank because she knows that she’s helping individuals or families. “You kind of think about that after awhile when you get to sit down and have dinner,” she said, “Not everybody gets to do that.”

The Food Bank has continued to be an inviting place for young adults to go and contribute their time. Whether they’re there on their own or for mandatory community service, the help is always appreciated.

One Volunteer’s Persistence Pays Off

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Julie Ruttenberg has been volunteering at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for about a year and a half now, but it took an entire decade for her to be able to.

When Julie and her husband first had their son, who is autistic and now 21 years old, they were going through some hard times as a young couple. Fortunately, they had enough money to get by. Knowing that her family didn’t have it as bad as others, she frequently thought about other mothers and babies. “Babies should never go hungry,” she said.

Starting off her relationship with the Food Bank in small proportions, every payday she bought an extra box of cereal to donate. “I remember one year just going through the grocery store with a hundred dollars for the Food Bank. I would fill a grocery cart,” Julie said, and when the bagger went to take it to the cart I said, “No, just put it in that barrel.”

When she was ready to become more involved with the Food Bank, she asked if there were any volunteer opportunities in the office. Unfortunately, office help was not needed and she was unable to sort food due to the arthritis in her ankles prohibiting her from standing on cement for a long period of time.

Ten years later, Julie finally became an office volunteer when help was needed at the new Fairfield warehouse. She has become involved with the food stamp outreach efforts at the Food Bank. When people lose their jobs and find it difficult to make ends meet they usually go to the Food Bank. “They figured out that the food banks tend to find people,” she said. The Food Bank has been working with the state to make sure everyone gets access to food stamps. Instead of calling it food stamps, they now use the name CalFresh.

The CalFresh requirements are based on how many people there are in a household and how much money is coming in from everybody. Working every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Julie does the majority of the documentation for the program including making copies of the paperwork and sorting all of it. She also helps out with different training meetings throughout the year with the Food Bank’s partners.

Julie Ruttenberg

Julie at her workspace in the Fairfield office/warehouse.

With her son becoming a little more independent, she can leave him home alone to wander to and from the nearby library during the day. “It frees me up, so it worked out timing wise. He’s old enough to be left alone and I have somewhere to go,” said Julie.

Julie has completely been enjoying her time at the Food Bank. “They make me feel like one of the group,” she said. She was even invited to a staff potluck. The staff told her she was one of them even though she does everything unpaid.  “I get paid in wonderful good feelings,” she said.

She is a prime example of it never being too late to volunteer. Her persistence to be involved led her to her goal of helping those in need.

Boxing Project Continues to Bring People Together While Fighting Hunger

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.”

Boxing Project Lead Volunteer Teri Bloebaum with Jim Denels and other volunteers assembling boxes.

Finished Boxes of Nutritious Food and a Recipe

Our Volunteers Filling Boxes

Families Strengthening Communities

Join us for Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, August 20 at 2339 Courage Drive, Suite F in our Fairfield facility and Sunday, August 21 at 4010 Nelson Avenue in our Concord facility. It is a great opportunity to see how the Food Bank works while having fun and contributing to your community!

Family Volunteer Day showcases the benefits of families working together, introduces young children who cannot normally volunteer for community service, and encourages those who haven’t yet made a commitment to volunteer as a family. There will be two shifts available to volunteer by reservation only. If your family has not participated in Family Volunteer Day before be sure to reserve for the 11:30am – 1:30pm shift. If your family has participated before and would like to help out again be sure to reserve for the 2:00pm – 4:00pm shift.

To participate, children must be ages 5 and older and must be accompanied by an adult; provide one chaperone per child for children ages 5 – 10 and at least one chaperone for every 2 to 3 children ages 11 and up.

Please email VolunteerHelpDesk@foodbankccs.org or call (925) 676-7543 for Concord or (707) 421-9778 for Fairfield to reserve your spot. We will do our best to accommodate you, but unfortunately there is limited space available so we register families on a first come, first served basis.

We’d like to invite you to stay in touch with us by simply joining our online community of caring citizens who receive occasional e-news related to their area(s) of interest.  Additionally, we hope you will read about the many community events (www.foodbankccs.org/events) taking place which offer a variety of ways to get involved and help support the Food Bank.