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Volunteers Make the Food Go 'Round...

stock photo of a red apple with a heart cut out on dark grain wood table

This #FoodCenterFriday is all about sharing stories and introducing a few of the volunteers that helped at last month's Commodities distribution. We are always curious about what motivates each of them to continue to show up and dedicate their time. We want to know, what's the draw?

Distribution for Commodities Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), a program led by Eastern Area Agency on Aging, happens on the second Thursday of every month here at Piscataquis Regional Food Center. Eastern Area Agency on Aging (EAAA) volunteers usually show up around 12:40/12:45pm to sort the produce.

Folks line up to receive their Commodities food boxes and produce by the loading dock around 1pm. Distribution typically starts at 2pm and remains open until 4pm. During this time, Theresa and Debbie hand out newly laminated cards for each customer which checks them in, shows how many CSFP boxes they are being picking up, if they are also receiving cheese, whether they are part of the Furry Friends Program (dog or cat food)- which can be purchased for $1, and what available produce they would like.

Snow melt drips dramatically from the overhang above the loading dock area. The fairly consistent drips next to the loading dock and the rolling cart don't deter the groove and good nature of the next several hours of distribution.

Helping re-pack bulk vegetables and fruits that day are Steve, Erin, Theresa (TMak) and Robin Ladd (of Meals on Wheels), as well as Debbie and Eric. When the rush of packing, greeting, distributing and moving food was over, we approached Debbie and Eric to ask them why they volunteer.

Debbie wears a soft purple jacket, glasses, and a well matched light purple eyeshadow. She is cheerful and calm in her demeanor. Eric wears earth colors, a ponytail and a cap. Every so often when he communicates what he is putting into customer's vehicles, he voices it in an almost melodic tone.

When we asked Debbie how long she had been volunteering she smiled and said “a long time”. She relayed that some of her long standing dedication in volunteering is because of her relationship with her church community at the His Living Word church. She remembers Pastor Tom who first ran a food cupboard on Lawrence Street, where the Central Hall is now. As Debbie continued to attend church, she also continued to volunteer with the Food Cupboard. She states that it was because the church community had a large mission and service focus that she felt moved to continue. Though the location of the food cupboard changed over the 10-15 years that Pastor Tom ran it, she remained and moved with the locations. She recalls serving around “Two hundred people, ever other week or so.”

“I felt called to do the work.” Debbie's primary role was running the computer. Over the years she began to recognize faces and names of the patrons of the food cupboard. So much so that it “was like family”. So, when the His Living Word food cupboard changed locations and became the Dover Foxcroft Area Food Cupboard, she stayed on because she wanted to be a “stable face”, and consistently be a part of the patrons lives she came to care so much about.

And when we asked Debbie how come she decided to also volunteer with Eastern Area Agency on Aging? Debbie told us that Kelly, the manager of the Supplemental Food Program, asked her if she'd like to join the EAAA volunteer team because of Debbie's relationship with the patrons. It was precisely for this reason that Debbie said "yes!". And there are other benefits, she told us. One of the reasons Debbie volunteers is because it helps her to be social, “instead of stuck in the house”. She thinks it also “keeps the mind sharp, and helps from being isolated”. She thinks that a lot of people don't realize the effects of isolation. But being out with people, “really made me a people person” and gives a place for her to offer her “servant heart” and assistance. We sure appreciate your dedication to community, Debbie!

Though Eric has a slightly different tale of how he got involved with Eastern Area Agency on Aging, the underlying message of responding to a calling is very similar. Eric told us he and his wife saw something about the Commodities distribution in the paper. So when they went to pick up a box, they couldn't help but notice that a few extra hands might be helpful.

“She came home, and said, you've got to do this! We saw the need and decided to help. It's fun, I like doing it.” Thanks for seeing an opportunity to help and responding to the calling, Eric and Lisa!

You can learn more about Piscataquis Regional Food Center volunteer opportunities here. And head on over to the Eastern Area Agency on Aging's website to learn more about their volunteer opportunities. Stay tuned for next month's write-up on CSFP Distribution Day at the PR Food Center- we'll be sharing more about the multi-program connections that make it happen and you'll have a chance to listen to what a distribution really sounds like.

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