Originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter: Whenever I talk about the work of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, I always explain how important volunteers are, but as we prepared for our volunteer recognition and I looked at the total volunteer hours given this past year, I am even more amazed. Volunteers gave more than 86,000 hours of their time last year; the equivalent work time of more than 40 staff members. Volunteers answer our phones, sort food, bag produce and help run our distributions. They are ambassadors making presentations to groups about the work we do. Our volunteer Board of Directors takes responsibility for setting the goals of the organization and making sure we provide the services the community needs. We succeed as an organization because volunteers care about the work we do.
Volunteers are also an inspiration to our staff members. When we see the time and energy people give to help us feed others, we know we are part of an organization doing the right thing. I personally feel privileged that I got to know Duncan Miller because of my work at the Food Bank. Duncan past away this year, but his legacy lives on in the work of the “Milk Duds”, fellow volunteers from Rockville Presbyterian Church who continue to provide food to their neighbors in need. Duncan started his “Milk Dud” group to help him haul donated milk to his food pantry and other charities in the Fairfield area. As the volume of donated milk grew, Duncan partnered with the Food Bank to make sure these valuable donations of dairy products were used. Duncan was a retired pilot who owned classic planes, but his passion for helping others defined his life. That passion continues in the work of the Rockville Presbyterian “Milk Duds” who continue to serve community members in need.
Volunteers also keep staff motivated by the example they set through their energy and commitment. Houston Robertson has energy that exceeds what I only wish I had. She volunteers with us doing outreach to enroll people in the CalFresh program (a quite complicated task) and helps with the distribution of Food for Children boxes at our distribution site in Vallejo. She is also an incredibly articulate Ambassador for us, speaking to groups about the Food Bank’s work and hopefully persuading them to volunteer as well. When she is not volunteering for us, Houston does presentations about aging that refer to the memoir she has written. Did I mention she is also branching out as a stand-up comedian?
Our Volunteer Recognition event took place October 26, celebrating people like Houston and Duncan. Our work could not be done if we did not have the support our volunteers give. We live in a community that cares about people in need and gladly gives their time to make a difference.