My schedule finally developed an opening, so off to the Food Bank I went to experience a morning of packing food boxes. And yes, it was that easy! When I arrived, Jamie Treadaway had us sign in and then we went to the packing floor.
I was totally impressed with the organization and the cheerful attitude of the staff and team leaders. I was assigned to work with group of teenagers from a Catholic group in Texas. Let me tell you, they came to work! There was no standing around, but at the same time, we all settled into a nice rhythm of work. The pallets of food quickly turned into boxes of mixed food to be distributed to those in need. Our team leaders sang the praises of the group for the hard work and diligence of getting the job done in great fashion.
The experience was outstanding and it gave me a feeling of real accomplishment knowing that each can or package of food we touched was going to make some family’s living situation better. What a great service to the 500,000 people that face hunger in Oklahoma EACH day! Thanks to the staff for a wonderful morning at the Food Bank! I’ll be back soon and I’m bringing friends with me this time!
You’d think that, because I spend about 60 hours a week at the Food Bank already, that I wouldn’t want to spend my “off time” anywhere near the place, right? As it so happened, I scheduled our entire department to spend a few hours in the Volunteer Center helping assemble emergency family boxes recently without realizing the date was going to fall right in the middle of my vacation week.
Granted, I could have played the vacation card, but every time I thought about it, I kept hearing this voice in my head say, “hunger doesn’t take a vacation.” And, so I did what thousands of others do every year – I donated some of my time to volunteer at the Food Bank.
I have to tell you, it was probably one of the most rewarding days I’ve had in a while. Seriously. Not only did I get to do some physical labor for a change (rather than working at my computer all day), I also met some of the most wonderful people! There was a hard working group from Chapel Hill Methodist Church who shared their secret for staying young: keep busy by volunteering! There were youth groups, senior groups, families and individuals who read about the need for volunteers in the newspaper and just showed up to help.
There were volunteers as young as 8 and as old as 80. Some couldn’t lift, but they could work an assembly line; some couldn’t stand, but they could put labels on boxes; some couldn’t sit still, but they could run around and pick up cardboard boxes and tear them down for recycling! In short, there was something for everyone and everyone served a purpose. It was like a well-oiled machine.
Joe, Liz, Jackie, Jamie, Dan and all the rest of the crew that run the Volunteer Center every day deserve a standing O. Or at least, a standing “Oh My!” It’s amazing the amount of work that goes into preparing, coordinating, training and overseeing volunteers from all walks of life, all ages and all skill levels. Somehow, they seem to pull it off and, in the end, we all went home tired, but feeling like we had truly made a difference in someone’s life. It doesn’t get much better than that.
As for me – I may make this part of my vacation every year.
Because of your generosity, in Fiscal Year 2009, the Regional Food Bank:
- Distributed more than 28.5 million pounds of food to those in need – a 15% increase over the previous year.
- Served nearly 8,000 chronically hungry elementary school children in 263 schools in 38 counties through our Food 4 Kids backpack program.
- Expanded the Summer Feeding program to 45 sites, including rural Oklahoma.
- Provided a safe haven and an afternoon snack or meal for more than 850 children through our Kids Cafe sites.
- Increased the Senior Feeding program to 30 sites.
- Delivered food throughout the Regional Food Bank’s service area via the Regional Delivery System, making approximately 1,000 deliveries per month to nearly 350 delivery sites in urban and rural Oklahoma at no cost to our partner agencies.
- Initiated the Walmart Supercenter and Neighborhood Market Product Recovery Program in late January, with 53 authorized Walmart locations – resulting in more than two million pounds of food collected and distributed.
- Completed fundraising and construction of our Building Expansion – Volunteer Center, adding 36,600 square feet of additional freezer, dry storage and volunteer work space.
- Welcomed thousands of volunteers who contributed over 47,000 hours of service – saving the Regional Food Bank more than $900,000 in labor costs.
- Provided enough food to feed more than 63,600 hungry Oklahomans each week.
- Kept our administrative and fundraising costs below 5%.
We had a dedication ceremony and open house of our new Volunteer Center at the Food Bank a couple of weeks ago, it was kind of strange to stop and look back to where we started and where we are today.
In some ways it’s like a dream and in other ways it’s like it was just yesterday. Thirty years ago, we were picking up food from the back of Safeway grocery stores in a blue half-ton pickup. It was me and two Vista volunteers – there were many nights that we slept at the food bank so we’d be there to meet a truck in the middle of the night because the freight was free, and “free” was something we looked for a lot in those early days! We used to rent U-Hall trucks and drive to Dallas to pick up food that we’d distribute the next day.
Those were long hours and hard work, but also extremely fulfilling because we knew we were making a difference in someone’s life. And you might think that, thirty years later, some of that feeling and some of that driving passion for helping people might have faded, but the truth is – we feel it even more strongly today.
We’re delivering food to every corner of our 53 county service area in central and western Oklahoma and will likely distribute close to 3 million pounds each and every month this year. We’ll provide a safe haven for some 850 low-income children after school and we’ll provide backpacks of food to 9,000 chronically hungry elementary children this year. We’ll provide food to families who are struggling to make ends meet and we’ll deliver fresh produce and supplemental food to seniors in our state. With the new volunteer center, our 15,000+ volunteers will finally have a great workspace to package even more family boxes and Food 4 Kids boxes as the demand continues to grow.
It’s been a fun, interesting, humbling and challenging journey we have found ourselves on. Through our simple act of kindness – through our simple act of providing food, we have changed lives – we have provided hope. I thank each and every one of our donors, our volunteers, our corporate partners, our board members and our staff for being a part of our past, our present and our future.
It is my honor and privilege to serve you and it is a job that is not complete. We have the ability and the determination to make sure that no child, no senior, no family ever again goes without food in Oklahoma – to do less is unthinkable.
- Rodney Bivens, Executive Director