A volunteering story by: Jeremy Tecktiel
When I asked Max what kinds of things he did while volunteering, he said he has pretty much done everything you can do there from moving boxes in the warehouse to packaging the food to helping oversee the assembly line. Since he goes almost every week, the small number of employees have really grown to trust him and treat him as an employee; giving him tasks that would not normally be given to volunteers. He started by packaging food on the assembly line. In each box of food, there are a few different, non-perishable, items that are included. Someone scoops each item, such as rice, oats, dried vegetables and other things of that nature. At the end of the assembly line, someone vacuum seals the bag and puts in in a box to be sent out. He said this is probably the most boring of tasks he has done there, the time goes by quickly because you conversing with people around you makes it go quicker. After the food is placed in a box, someone collects the boxes and starts to stack them on a pallet. Once the pallet is full, someone pushes it over to the warehouse to unload it in the shipping area. This job is pretty physically exerting, so not many people jump at doing it. The last job is actually restocking the food. These people check to make sure that each assembly line has enough food and restocks them when they are running low. This involves going back to the warehouse and grabbing large bags of whatever type of food is needed and carrying them over to the lines and refilling the bins. None of the jobs are very glamourous or fun per say, but they all contribute equally to making the experience fulfilling.
One of my fraternity’s main charities is a food bank called Feeding America. Feeding America has banks all over the country, but the one I am most familiar with is in the greater Minneapolis Area. Members of my fraternity frequent this bank to help pack food to be shipped out and move the boxes from the warehouse. I interviewed one of my fraternity brothers, who actually holds the position of Philanthropy Chair, about his experiences at Feeding America. When I asked Max why he volunteers there or who inspired him, he told me that he honestly would never have started to volunteer there if it wasn’t for getting our fraternity’s hours. In order to be considered one of the best chapters in the country, a certain number of volunteer hours must be reached. There were a few approved charities in the area, but Feeding America was receptive to a large group, which was perfect for the fraternity. Even though it started out of necessity and not want, he came to really enjoy volunteering there. There is a video they show before you start your volunteer experience that helps to show you how your contributions help real people. The video starts by listing frightening facts about world hunger and includes interviews with people that have been helped personally by Feeding America. At the end of the video it shows actually how much can be accomplished with just a couple hours of volunteering. For example, 30 volunteers working for two hours can help feed thousands of people for a week. It adds legitimacy to the process and excites and energizes people with a purpose before they start volunteering. Knowing the impact you can make helps provide a goal to work towards. Without the video, he said he probably would have been really bored just packaging food on the assembly line, but he felt more of a purpose after watching the video.
The Aha! moment…
Max learned a lot from his experiences at Feeding America, enough that he has been able to mobilize many people into volunteering there with his passion. First and foremost, he realized just how much of a problem world hunger is. Obviously, everyone knows that there are starving people everywhere because everyone has been told at least once, “finish your food, there are starving people in the world.” This saying is very commonplace, but it is misleading because it is almost a punchline in our society. Seeing the data of how many people are actually starving, and what it really means to be starving, is a learning experience in itself. When people think of starving they don’t really understand the amount of food that it takes to fix that. Any small amounts of food go a very long way. Max said he was shocked when they told him that small bag of food could feed a family of 4 for a whole day because he probably eats more than that himself in a day. Actually seeing interviews of the people that have been affected by hunger and how they were helped by Feeding America, made him realize how many people he can help by just taking two hours out of his week to volunteer.
To summarize it in three words…
- impact, easy, fun
Why should you do this
Not only would he recommend the experience to people, but he has brought approximately 30 men a week to help volunteer for the past year. He takes a lot of pride in the amount of people that our fraternity has been able to help over the past year. Most of the time, they are selfish. Worrying about school or their personal lives dominates their time, but for two hours a week, they make a difference in someone’s life, many lives in fact. The feeling that accompanies that is unmatched, and that is why any time he talks to people about philanthropy, he recommends finding a volunteer experience that speaks to you to.