Have you ever wondered what it is like to volunteer at your local food bank? We talked with Madelaine, a North York Harvest volunteer to find out.
Madelaine has been volunteering ever since she was 14, an example learned from her mother. Once Madelaine retired, she started looking for a volunteer position in her community. She was thrilled to know NYH was right in her neighbourhood. Madelaine knows of the struggles of not having enough to eat. During World War II in Germany, her parents sometimes did not have enough food available.
I asked her about any surprises she had when she first started working in the food bank, and there definitely were a few. She was taken aback to see that so many people in her own backyard do not have enough to eat. She also noticed the lack of community space for programs, “It’s unfortunate that the city doesn’t provide a free location for the food bank,” she says. With over 13,000 individuals using North York Harvest’s services each month we work really hard to ensure there is space for all our programs.
Volunteering is obviously a very important aspect of Madelaine’s life, “Everyone works together as a team. We work hard. I am tired by the end of my shift but I find it quite rewarding.” But I couldn’t help but ask her how she stays motivated to keep coming week after week. She told me she volunteers with the food bank because of her love of helping people and being able to interact with the clients, volunteers and staff. Because the people that use the food bank services are right in Madelaine’s neighbourhood, she sees many of them outside of her volunteering. “I run into a lot of clients. Most of them stop and talk with me on the street or at the mall.”
As a longtime food bank volunteer, Madelaine sees first-hand what kinds of foods are needed the most. Most people need milk and vegetables, though both can run low come the end of the month.
As different people have many dietary needs, she does tend to get special requests. Many people ask for Kosher, Halal or vegetarian foods. Madelaine has got to know many of these clients well and does her best to help them if she can. “Most of the food is donated so we only have what we get, but if we have it, I will give it to them,” she told me with a smile.
Though it can be tough to realize many people don’t have enough to eat, Madelaine can see the silver lining in the kindness of others. She recalls a time it was near the end of her shift and she had given the last bag of rolls to a woman. The last client of the shift came in right after and Madelaine had let that person know that unfortunately, they were out of bread. “The woman who had the last package of rolls offered them to the other client. The other client insisted that they share. I was very touched.”
Madelaine’s philosophy in life is to treat people the way she would like to be treated. She also believes that people should volunteer their time at organizations like North York Harvest because they couldn’t exist without volunteers. “We all need to help each other.”
When asked what one could do if they didn’t have time to volunteer? “They can donate!” says Madelaine immediately. “Food, or especially money so we can buy the food we need the most.”
Here at North York Harvest we appreciate our many volunteers that assist with every aspect of the organization. It really does ‘take a village’ and we couldn’t run without you. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to help but are too busy right now to volunteer? No problem. Donate securely online and we will ensure that money goes to helping the clients that Madelaine serves so faithfully.
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