On Saturday, February 25th the must! charities youth board took time out of their busy schedules to give back by volunteering at the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County. This group of high school students not only gave up a Saturday, but also got up early to give back. Raising two teenagers myself I can assure you, this is a huge commitment from them, and there was not a single complaint.
Prior to the actual volunteer time, the group was given a personal tour of The Food Bank’s new digs. The best part of the tour was the tour guide herself, Caroline. Not only was Caroline super informative and knowledgeable about the Food Bank, but also her history of volunteering with a food bank in Nebraska while attending college was something each of these students could relate to. You see, half of these students are seniors in high school and will be going off to college next year and all of them have a heart for philanthropy. You could see their eyes light up as they were processing internally what that might look like for them next year.
Caroline did a fantastic job relating to our youth board. Caroline had attended high school on the central coast, and I had to ask her to share how she ended up working for the Food Bank. I’m always curious how people end up where they are, and Caroline’s story did not disappoint. Her story was one of a willingness to volunteer, not wanting to just sit around and do nothing, while looking for a full time job after graduating from college. One thing led to another upon an initial inquiry meeting about volunteering opportunities and she happened to be a perfect candidate for a job opening at The Food Bank. Boom! This lesson alone was so valuable for our youth to hear.
The tour consisted of a walk through the new office space, and every so often a stop to chat about the many programs our food bank offers, the people in our community who are being served (over 46,000). The obstacles of serving people in need, as well as over a million pounds of food our Food Bank gives out each year. So much information was given and it was all AMAZING to hear about. Members of our youth board had questions for Caroline, and she addressed each question with detail in a way that made sense for each of them. Trust me, she nailed it including questions referring to government regulations which she delivered eloquently, concise and with ease.
Then it was off to the rather chilly warehouse, where we connected with other community volunteers to give of our time. We had several tasks that were to be done. I was super excited to hear about a new program at the Food Bank for the homeless – this was our first task, to prep mini bags of ready to consume, healthy products for our own homeless population. Our team gathered the items and had an assembly line going and the task was done in an efficient amount of time, all while having fun together.
From there we were given the task of sorting items that had been donated from the community. So many “teachable moments” given to our youth about how sorting for one person looks different than sorting to another. Lots of conversations taking place about how people live differently and probably all sort their kitchen items differently too. The team sorted and re-sorted someone else’s prior effort to sort (is salad dressing and pasta sauce used the same in someone’s house… maybe?) Albeit the crew worked hard and guidance from Caroline was key – as they asked a million questions wanting to be certain they were sorting correctly to her standards. The best part of sorting was when one of our team came across a boxed cake mix. Caroline stopped the crew and educated us on the standards of healthy food choices that our local Food Bank lives by. Cue the applause, because not all Food Banks have the same standards and my hat goes off to ours for their efforts in this area. In fact, Caroline pointed out a bin labeled with another county’s name on it (I’m not going to rat them out in this blog), but it was filled with a bunch of non-healthy food choices. The best part… our food bank trades with them. They get the junk and we get fresh produce in exchange. That’s a huge WIN in my book.
As our time came to an end, much faster than we anticipated because time flies when you are having fun. We posed for a photo out with the Food Bank’s Cow. Then we went to lunch, because when you are volunteering around food for several hours, you get hungry. We chatted over a meal about everything the team learned that day and we discussed how amazing our local food bank really is and how fortunate our community is to have them operate the way they do. We also talked about how much joy can be found in giving back. It feels good to give. Several members of the youth board asked if we could come back. I assured them they didn’t need me to come back, now that they know what to do they have the tools to make it happen on their own. A smile crept ear to ear as I overheard them chatting about how they should get together once a month and drive down and make it happen. I was stoked to hear them plan their next day of volunteering together at The Food Bank… the seed was planted and I can’t wait to see it grow.
Bottom line. I would highly recommend volunteering at The Food Bank Coalition. You will not only walk away with knowledge about our community and The Food Bank, but you will feel good about giving back. Grab a friend and put in a couple hours there, you won’t regret it. Opportunities to volunteer are always there for anyone 16 years or older, and sometimes family days are available too. Check out more about The Food Bank Coalition at http://www.slofoodbank.org
If you know of a high school student who might be interested in serving on our youth board, direct them to our website at http://www.mustcharities.org/who-we-are/youth-board.php Applications for 2017-18 school year will be available in April.