April is Volunteer Appreciation Month and volunteers are vital to the success of Oregon Food Bank’s mission. Individuals and groups sort and repackage food, lead nutrition and gardening classes, assist with special events and legislative activities, and provide o ice and professional support. In short, without volunteers, thousands of people wouldn’t get their needs met.
Oregon Food Bank volunteers come from across the city and range from age 6 to 86. They are from different work and cultural backgrounds. Some are available every week and others come just once a year. They may arrive at Oregon Food Bank in different ways, but they share the mission to eliminate hunger and its root causes.
One of those volunteers is Bill Brandt-Gasuen. Bill is a record-setter. He’s logged more than 6,000 hours of service – a first for an Oregon Food Bank volunteer. In 2002, Bill was laid
off and took it as a sign to officially retire. Since then, he has volunteered at Oregon Food Bank and several other nonprofits in Portland. “You have to find a place where you fit,” he says. “I never married, I have no dependents, but I feel a responsibility to my community.” In addition to repacking food, Bill has helped in more than 40 different volunteer roles.
Doug Philips has volunteered at Oregon Food Bank for 12 years. “When you come in each week and repack food, it’s a given that you know where that food is going. It’s going out to help folks in a community, a soup kitchen, it’s going to a pantry that is accessed by hungry families, moms show up there to get food for their family.” Doug enjoys being part of the volunteer community, where he has built lifelong friendships. He repeatedly says, “If you want to see the worst in people, go sit in traffic. If you want to see the best in people, go volunteer.”
And then there are volunteer groups – anything from Girl Scout Troops, class field trips, local sports teams, corporate team-building outings – who fill food packing shifts with their peers. Whether it’s once a year or a regular occurrence, groups who volunteer together enjoy giving back together and strengthening their camaraderie. “Our employees have been enriched by the many opportunities to volunteer at Oregon Food Bank,” said Molly Haynes at Kaiser Permanente.
While repacking food is where most volunteers spend time, others help with Oregon Food Bank’s cooking and gardening programs. “My parents taught me, when you have enough for yourself, it’s important to take care of others,” explained Wen-ying Wu, a volunteer in the Learning Garden. “After a long week in the o ice, there’s nothing like digging in the dirt.” She has even celebrated her birthday in the garden, bringing more than a dozen people to volunteer with her.
Thank you to the thousands of people who give their time and energy to Oregon Food Bank. You are a most valuable resource and you inspire everyone around you. Your service is bringing us all together to overcome hunger and create stronger communities.