39. Zach Teitsma


For five years, Zach Teitsma has served in the food bank’s reclamation department, sorting donated food for our Mobile Pantries and partner food pantries and meal programs. But unlike most, he volunteers as part of his day job! He works at Ready for Life, an organization that serves adults with disabilities, so when he volunteers, he volunteers alongside 10 program clients.⁣

“We focus on quality of life, purpose through volunteering, giving them work skills,” Zach explained. “It’s not a paying job but it gives them meaning. Part of the joy they get from volunteering is knowing they’re helping people — that makes them smile.”⁣

At Ready for Life, Zach works with clients who are 26+, many of whom come two or three days per week. Because they volunteer at the food bank twice a month, and since some of them have participated in the program for years, many have become food bank experts. They also volunteer at other nonprofits across Grand Rapids, but Zach said the food bank has become one of their favorite places to go.⁣
“They like doing the tasks and interacting with the staff,” Zach said. “There’s a lot of variety in what we do. We’ve washed juice, packaged frozen eggs, packaged dressings. This helps us work on a variety of skills.”⁣

Although he thinks it’s become a bit of a cliché to say, he said, “It’s true that what you get out when you interact with adults with disabilities outweighs what you put in quite a lot.”⁣
He’s constantly learning from his clients.⁣

“A huge thing for me is let people try. If you think they’re not going to be able to do something, 90 percent of the time clients in this population will surprise you. It’s easy to limit people with disabilities with what you perceive their abilities are. It’s fun to be shocked by how far they can go and how much they can do.”⁣

Outside work, Zach is raising three young sons. His wife works in special education, so their sons have grown up around people with disabilities.⁣

“Talking about our work is making our kids view populations with disabilities as not being different, they’re just somebody else that they know,” Zach said.⁣

Feeding America West Michigan relies on volunteers from all walks of life to sort and distribute food to serve our neighbors facing hunger across West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Thank you, Zach, for choosing the food bank as one of your organization’s favorite places to volunteer! With help from you, your clients, and fellow staff, we can continue providing millions of meals each year.⁣

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