If you volunteer at our Concord warehouse on a weeknight, you are likely to cross paths with Gary Morin. The first thing you might notice about him is that he is very tall and friendly, and, come rain or come shine, he always has a smile on his face as he helps the Food Bank sort food for distribution to people in need. We took a moment to get to know Gary and ask him why he has made a commitment to the Food Bank. We hope you enjoy this month’s Volunteer Spotlight.
Name: Gary Morin
Occupation: Senior Auditor with the Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General – Audit
What do you do there? We audit any USDA program that gets funding: food stamps, forest service, agricultural products, research animals, etc. I’ve been an auditor for 40 years, since I was out of college. I was going to be a veterinarian, but I found out I was allergic to almost all animals. I was good with numbers so this was a good fit.
How long have you lived in the Bay Area? Fifty-five years! I am a native-born San Franciscan. I have only spent five years away, when I lived in the Philippines with my parents as civilians at Subic Bay naval base. My dad worked in human resources at the base hiring locals to work on the base during the Vietnam War. I’ve lived in Daly City, San Carlos, Novato, and now in Concord.
How long have you been volunteering at the Food Bank? Since October 2015.
What do you do at the Food Bank? I sort food at the Concord warehouse and also help out with food drive events.
What made you want to volunteer at the Food Bank? Forty years ago (1980) I worked with the California Grey Bears in Santa Cruz. They were providing food for seniors. Volunteers [who were also seniors] would go out to Salinas and Watsonville and glean the field. This was before farmers harvested “seconds” for food banks. The fields had already been picked for the farmers, but there were seconds left over that could be eaten. The farmers gave us permission to harvest this. Seniors would go out and pick this food for the Grey Bears. They would go out, pick and fill a truckload full of totes to bring back for distribution. I was a college student with a strong back so I didn’t pick the food I got the honor of lifting the heavy baskets to someone in the truck.
We’d see farmworkers in the fields all the time. One day a farmworker who was on break at the next field came over and asked, “Why are all these old people out here picking food?” I explained what the Grey Bears did and who would be getting this food. The farmworker let out a whistle and two minutes later the truck was full. The farmworkers came over and picked the second harvest for us and put it on the truck and we were done. That got me thinking about helping people in need of getting food. This experience stuck with me. When I moved back to Concord I wanted to start volunteering again, due to a life change. [Editor’s note: Grey Bears is still going strong. To learn more, check out their website at www.greybears.org.
Why do you continue to volunteer? It’s a good way for me to unwind from the crazy day of pushing a pencil and doing the auditing. You’re doing intense auditing all day and this is completely different. It’s also a way to get exercise, keeping moving, and get out of the house. I meet different people every time I come to volunteer, and it is fun to share the history of the Food Bank with them. It is fun to see their eyes widen when they realize how much food is distributed from this warehouse in a month!
Why is volunteering important to you? In this busy world, with demanding professional commitments and so many distractions, how do you fit in volunteering with your work schedule? For me it’s a way to give back to the community, to help out, and it gets me out of being married to work. It helps break that cycle. I know I have to go to the Food Bank on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That’s my routine. I come straight from work. If I go home—forget it. Now, I have added working with the Food Bank “boxing team” on my days off every other Friday, schedule permitting.
What would you tell someone who works full-time about volunteering? Why should they consider getting involved with the Food Bank? There are so many jobs and tasks that need to be done and you can find something to meet your schedule. There’s no excuse not to volunteer between the Concord and Fairfield warehouses.
Are there times of the year you like to volunteer the most? Letter Carriers Stamp Out the Hunger food drive in May, Scare Away Hunger in October, and the Safeway food drive in November.
Do you have any stories from your time here that you would like to share? What has moved you most? Scare Away Hunger is the best event I’ve seen. High school kids go out on Halloween eve. Instead of collecting candy, they collect food. Marathon provides trucks to pick up the food and a thank you lunch for the kids afterwards. These kids give up their Halloween to feed the hungry. They bring in at least two bobtail trucks full of food for the Food Bank. It’s really cool to see the kids do this.
What would you tell young people about the Food Bank, hunger, or volunteering? Remember not everybody has what you have in the way of food and getting a meal every day. Think about it. What if you could only get one meal a day? How would you feel? Which meal would you want? What would you do? How would you solve that problem? By volunteering for an hour you could help give somebody a meal. Helping others is a good thing.
Helping others is a good thing and we are thankful for Gary’s help at the Food Bank.
Each month, 1 in 8 people living in Contra Costa and Solano counties receives emergency food from the Food Bank. We often repeat this statistic because it reflects the hidden nature of hunger. With so many in need, those we help are likely to be someone you regularly pass by on your way to work or in your neighborhood.
Fighting hunger in our community is an all-hands-on-deck process. That is why we are grateful for everyone who has chosen to volunteer at the Food Bank, so much so we occasionally shine a spotlight on who is helping us.