This is a great time to be at Food Outreach. We have the opportunity to see, on a daily basis, how devotion to our mission makes a difference in the lives of our clients. One of our greatest strengths and largest assets endures through the work and support of our volunteers. Food Outreach’s Board of Directors, the Red Aprons and the individuals, families and groups who volunteer their time and work embody a group of about 700 people without whom we would have to close our doors.
Throughout my first year at Food Outreach, I have heard personal stories from numerous volunteers about why they work here. Many of our volunteers are here serving our clients with their own diagnosis of HIV or cancer. Others feel a deeply personal connection to Food Outreach because of the loss of their beloved partner or spouse, son/daughter, brother/sister or family member who died from AIDS in earlier decades. With the inclusion of services for our clients with cancer, volunteers have also connected with our mission because they have family and friends who are fighting cancer diagnoses or because of the battle with cancer their loved ones bravely faced until their passing.
There exists here at Food Outreach a profound sense of loss for many of us which calls us to be here – to do more than show up – to make a difference and serve our clients with joy and gratitude. It might not surprise you to read that many of our volunteers have been working here for more than 10 or 20 years and have been doing this work without any expectation about being thanked or praised for their caring acts. We have individuals and groups of volunteers who have become a part of our daily and weekly practices – they return on the same days to ensure our clients and their families are genuinely welcomed, treated with dignity and respect and served with a high level of responsiveness. Our volunteers prep, cook and serve food, wash dishes, work in our walk-in freezers, greet and check in clients, sort cans and stock shelves, place stickers on lids, stuff envelopes, set the table and personally pack boxes for our homebound clients. Our volunteers even detangle the apron strings on our clean aprons after they come out of the dryer. Our indispensable Red Aprons come each Saturday morning to oversee our entire Cook and Pack and to produce thousands of meal portions each week.
Our Board of Directors faithfully spends countless hours, behind the scenes, to ensure proper oversight of our resources and Food Outreach. Our Board members, like our volunteers and staff, act as ambassadors on behalf of the thousands of clients we have served over many years to encourage engagement, philanthropy, giving and volunteering.
As I enter my second year as the Executive Director, I think a great deal about what working at Food Outreach teaches me. I have learned over and over again that our capacity to transcend loss, our desire to serve others and to struggle with and endure illness endures through hunger, trauma, isolation and loneliness. I am grateful for our staff, volunteers, clients and Board of Directors, who serve this profound purpose.
With much appreciation,