6. Maria


Maria poses in front of the food club wearing an apronMaria, a high school junior, loves cruising around on her skateboard, tutoring her siblings and studying science and math. She also loves volunteering at the Community Food Club in Grand Rapids each week, where you’ll find her behind the cash register helping neighbors check out through the Food Club’s points system.

“I really enjoy it. I get to interact with a lot of people,” she said.

Maria learned about the Food Club when her family of eight became members there.

“I usually come with my mom and dad or my older siblings. It’s really convenient for us,” Maria said. “Some of my favorite things to get here are fruit and vegetables.”

Maria’s family doesn’t need to receive food assistance thanks to their Food Club membership.

“I usually take lunch to school, and [the Food Club] has helped me bring fruit and stuff.”

Soon after her family became members, Maria started attending a school requiring volunteer hours. She soon began volunteering at the Food Club, and has continued because she loves the work. She likes chatting with Food Club customers and hearing their stories.

“I think it’s important for people to volunteer so they can have the experience interacting with others,” she said.

“Maria really embodies what we are looking for in a volunteer,” said AJ, who directs the Food Club. “She is friendly, warm, and very respectful of our members. She provides excellent customer service and treats everyone with respect. No one leaves her checkout lane without a smile. On top of all of that, she is bilingual in English and Spanish, which is very helpful. Spanish is the primary language for 52 percent of our members and it provides a better shopping experience when everyone can speak in their preferred language.”

One day, Maria hopes to work either in medicine or education. Until then, she’s using her customer service skills to help her community. The dedication of neighbors like Maria is what makes hunger-relief programs, like the Food Club, possible across the food bank’s service area.

“While the Food Club may provide access to additional healthy foods, our program is stronger when Maria and others lend a hand,” AJ said. “It’s such a privilege to work with her!”

When it comes to volunteering, Maria’s advice is: “You should try it!”

Back to 40 Years 40 Faces