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Food Bank Ambassador is a Living Legacy

Houston (holding the flower and award) is pictured with friends, family and Food Bank staff members.

Guest post by Food Bank Office Assistant, Lauren Strouse: Every so often life presents us with the opportunity to do something special for someone else. Food Bank staff in Solano recently nominated one of their wonderful volunteers for a special honor. The Solano County Senior Coalition, in partnership with the Area Agency on Aging, the County, and cities in Solano, annually sponsor the Living Legacy Awards for individuals 60 and older.  The award categories are diverse: Community Spirit, Inspired Leadership, Social Innovation, Community Champion, Building Bridges, and Generative Age.  An application had to be completed, which included a 500 word essay detailing why this individual deserved the award. Volunteer Houston Robertson was nominated for a Community Spirit Award. We were truly delighted when she won, and even more excited to share the news with Houston.

The Award Ceremony was held at the Fairfield Community Center on May 15th. The honorees were able to invite guests and Houston’s son, daughter, and several friends were present to share this special occasion with her. Food Bank staff also attended. Mayors from all seven Solano County cities were in attendance. Houston was honored to have Benicia mayor Elizabeth Patterson sit at her table. Three members of the County Board of Supervisors helped present the awards and representatives for the other county supervisors, plus state legislators, were also present. Twenty one individuals, many well into their 80’s, from all seven cities in Solano County, were honored. It was a very inspirational afternoon.

Houston was nominated because she is a very special volunteer. She has an infectious personality and enthusiasm that inspires others to get excited about what they are doing. Houston, 77 years young, has been a volunteer with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano in Solano County, for just four years however, during this time she has demonstrated a dedicated commitment to the work the Food Bank is engaged in – fighting hunger.  She is a “member” of the Wednesday Morning Regulars, a group of retirees who sort food together every Wednesday. She has been a Food Bank Ambassador for two years, representing the Food Bank at various functions, such as community health fairs. She has also learned to conduct the Food Bank’s Wheel of Life activity, which is a regular part of our Family Volunteer Day, held approximately three times a year. She recently took full responsibility for presenting this at ACE Charter School when the school decided to organize a food drive as a Service Day activity, and she addressed the entire student body as well.  Last but not least, Houston volunteers at the Vallejo Food for Children distribution, which involves an additional time commitment of roughly four hours each month.

Houston also does public speaking about “Aging as Renaissance,” mostly to groups of seniors. It is a humorous, joy-filled presentation. She has written and published a book about her life, with special focus on mid-life. She is a fantastic example of how to age well, possess community spirit, and how to give back to the community. Her work exemplifies concern and compassion for others. She is active, fully engaged with life, and constantly seeking out new opportunities to be of service, learn and grow.

The Food Bank is fortunate to have someone like Houston helping to support our organization and equally grateful to have been able to play a role in this special individual being recognized with a “Living Legacy Award.”

Lafayette United Methodist Church Helps the Food Bank

Guest post by Ambassador Pat Hershey — I’ve always joked that Methodists have a passion for food (as in pot luck dinners), but at Lafayette United Methodist Church (LUMC) we put our real passion into helping the Food Bank.

Through our ongoing food drive, the “ONE Project,” we encourage members to bring one item of food to church each week.  They can just drop their donations into the Food Bank barrel as they come into the sanctuary.   Leslie Murray, our ONE Project coordinator, recently suggested that we set a goal to double our total yearly donation in 2012, and so far we are on track!  For March, we are suggesting that folks bring peanut butter to donate, as that is one of the Food Bank’s most needed items.

LUMC members also regularly volunteer with the Food Bank’s “Boxing Team,” packing boxes of food for the Food for Children and Extra Helpings direct distribution programs.  The Boxing Team works 2 – 3 Fridays a month, packing anywhere from 250 to over 700 boxes at a time.   Rod & Barbara Levander started volunteering at the Food Bank over 12 years ago, first in the sorting room and then within a short time joined the Boxing Team.  Vic & Fran Smith joined the Boxing Team a couple years later, and with the addition of Jill and myself in recent years, LUMC now regularly fields 6 members to help the team.

We also have groups of youth and adults who volunteer from time to time to help sort donated food at the Concord warehouse and pick pears for the Food Bank from the Moraga orchard.  Recently I led a group of LUMC kids from ages 12 to 82 out to the Concord warehouse and we spent the afternoon sorting 5,187 pounds of food.   That’s a lot of food, but at the end of the afternoon the group was simply saying “When is the next time we’re coming back to do this again?  This was wonderful!”

One special thing that the LUMC women’s group has done for several years now is to make 100 Easter Baskets each year for kids in some of the Food Bank’s partner agency programs.  Sue Renno and Fran Smith organize this project and direct the assembly process, and then the Food Bank sends a truck to pick up the finished baskets and distribute them to the partner agencies.  Each basket includes a chocolate bunny, a stuffed animal, a toy and some practical items like tooth brushes etc.  One of the agencies receiving baskets last year wrote to us saying, “The baskets went to mothers participating in the workforce services program who are in training (in Antioch), and they were very appreciative. The consensus was that they wouldn’t have been able to provide any Easter gifts for their children without your help.”  Wow, what a great result from LUMC partnering up with the Food Bank!

Finally, I also volunteer in the Food Bank Ambassador program, which gives me a chance to go out to events and tell people about the Food Bank and the growing need for food assistance right here in Contra Costa and Solano counties.  As an Ambassador, I’ve represented the Food Bank at a wide variety of events, including Oktoberfest in Todos Santos Plaza in Concord, an Employee Wellness event at Kaiser in Richmond, and the annual food drive at Fenton’s Ice Cream Parlor in Vacaville.  It’s so rewarding to be able to tell others about the incredibly important work the Food Bank is doing, and raise awareness around issues of hunger.  It fills my heart and feeds my soul.

LUMC Methodists are passionate about food – and we put that passion to work by helping the Food Bank achieve its vision of ending hunger here in Contra Costa and Solano counties.