If large volunteer groups are the food bank’s bread, long-term volunteers are our butter. Together, they help us serve an average of 21 million meals worth of food to neighbors in need each year.
“Long-term volunteers are important because we can count on them to always be there to help serve our community. They have a contagious passion to help and continue helping throughout their lives,” said Maggie, our volunteer resources manager.
As one of our most loyal long-term volunteers, Steve exemplifies this “contagious passion.” For 10 years, he brought both a big smile and hardworking attitude to his volunteer shifts at least twice a week. Now, he’s seeking brighter skies in Arizona, and we want to let him know how much he’ll be missed!
Steve first volunteered with a church group on weekends. When he retired from his fulltime job, he decided to start coming in regularly – and never stopped.
“It’s a good cause and I enjoyed the people I work with,” he said. “The work wasn’t too strenuous and I got free cookies!”
Like many, Steve first learned how widespread hunger is when he started volunteering. His previous experience with hunger was on out-of-state mission trips to disaster areas.
“I was aware that poverty and hunger were an issue,” he said. “But I wasn’t quite aware of it being in West Michigan.”
Typically, 1 in 8 neighbors in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula faces hunger. Due to the pandemic, that ratio is projected to be closer to 1 in 6 this year. The food bank can turn $10 into 40 meals for these neighbors in need, but we also accept shelf-stable food donations from individual donors.
Steve and his fellow volunteers sorted through these items to ensure the food bank gives only the safest items to neighbors in need. Over the years, he’s thrown away some pretty odd food donations.
“It’s amazing how long people keep stuff – things that are 10 or 15 years old,” he said. “People will donate things that are half eaten or the package is open.”
His advice to would-be donors:
“Don’t donate things you wouldn’t eat yourself. If you wouldn’t want it, nobody else does either!”
Steve and his wife chose the Grand Canyon State as their new place of residence in part because their daughter lives there, along with their first grandchild.
He’ll miss the friends he made at the food bank, and is considering volunteering in Arizona. The food bank will miss him, too.
“He’s always a very focused and reliable worker,” Maggie said. “He was always going out of his way to help other volunteers and save as much food as possible.”
Steve loved the flexibility of being a food bank volunteer. Volunteers can help for an hour, or five days a week.
“They can use the help and it goes for a good cause and the people are good to work with. You develop a camaraderie with the other volunteers,” Steve said.
Story written by Communication Assistant Juliana Ludema.