The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of uncertainty for us all. With many people out of jobs, economic devastation began and has persisted. Many people faced the obstacle of not knowing where one’s next meal would come from, and continue to today. Our food insecurity projects have experienced a great increase in clients, working with less volunteers than normal to follow safe COVID-19 social distancing precautions. We are extremely grateful for our volunteers working at food insecurity projects, so we are extending our gratitude by highlighting three of our volunteers at three different food insecurity projects!
Augustin Vannier- American Red Cross Food Pantry
Augustin has been volunteering with Boston Cares since July of 2020, having moved to Boston right before the pandemic started.
He was looking for an opportunity to get involved with food insecurity projects because the economic devastation caused by the pandemic drove people to seek out help from food pantries. With the pandemic rampant during the time he started, the downstream consequences of lockdown resulted in a significant increase in food insecurity in Boston. The American Red Cross Food Pantry experienced an increase of three times as many clients during the start of the pandemic. Not wanting to feel trapped by these circumstances, he became actively involved with The American Red Cross Food Pantry.
He has since continued his time there because of the incredible community at the pantry and the sense of fulfillment he felt at the end of each shift. His Volunteer Leader, Dave Boudreau, was a very welcoming leader and has enhanced his experience volunteering greatly. Inspired by the positive influence Dave had on his experience volunteering at the pantry, Augustin decided to become a Volunteer Leader himself. His time as a Volunteer Leader has helped him work skills such as leadership development, and he looks forward to these skills helping him in future endeavors.
Augustin describes volunteering at the American Red Cross Food Pantry as a dynamic event, since no shift looks the same. This is due to the volunteers aim to respond to the needs of the clients present at the time of the shift. Some regular activities during a volunteer shift include handing out food in their drive-thru system, registering clients, packing and distributing food in the back, and putting food in bags to create nutritionally balanced variety for clients.
There is a ritual at the American Red Cross Food Pantry that at the beginning and end of each shift, the volunteers and staff come into a team huddle. At the beginning of the shift, this is to give out the plan for the day and assign people different roles. At the end of the day, the huddle is where the staff discusses how the day went and how many people came in and were helped by the volunteers. This post-shift huddle is the most rewarding aspect of volunteering at the pantry for Augustin. After four hours of a physically active shift, his tiredness is soon forgotten when he hears that number, and it makes all the effort worthwhile. There is nothing like feeling that his work has gone toward improving other people’s lives and providing them with essential nutrition.
Sean Power- East End House
Sean has been an active member of the Boston Cares community since December of 2020.
Passionate to make a difference in his community, Sean has been in and out of other service opportunities for his entire life. He decided to start up his passion for service again during the pandemic as an opportunity to connect with his community and be an agent for change during such a difficult time for many. Sean originally sought out Boston Cares because of the user-friendly nature of our Calendar system. Living in the city, he wanted to be sure he could access service opportunities via the T or by biking or walking. He also enjoys being able to sign up in advance and know how many people will be at a project. He remains an active member of our community because of how easy it is for him to find opportunities that are accessible to him and have openings available regularly.
Sean has been volunteering with East End House on a regular basis since it is the closest volunteer opportunity on our Calendar to him, and since they have volunteer opportunities available on a regular basis. He also enjoys that there are often different tasks to do at East End House, which keeps it interesting. During a typical volunteer shift, Sean and the other volunteers begin by unloading and sorting through a recent food delivery. They divide deliveries into boxes for people to pick up, ensuring that each box has food from each food group to have a variety to bring home. Then, clients come and pick up the food they are looking for. Once clients are served, volunteers put the remaining food back into the pantry.
To Sean, there are many rewarding aspects to the volunteer work he partakes in. First, he enjoys participating in food insecurity focused programs because it is fulfilling to see people get what they need for themselves and their families. This is particularly the case with the pandemic, as it has been very hard on people financially with a great increase in unemployment and uncertainty in where their next meal is coming from. Another aspect of volunteering Sean finds greatly rewarding is meeting new people from varying walks of life come together for a common cause. Sean would like to say a special thank you to East End House CEO Michael Delia and Volunteer Coordinator Ryan Montbleau for making his time volunteering at East End House a wonderful experience!
Dan Peterson- My Brother’s Table
Dan started out volunteering with Boston Cares through our virtual letter writing volunteer opportunity, sending words of encouragement and thanks to frontline workers during the beginning of the pandemic.
He then began volunteering with My Brother’s Table in January of 2021. This came about by Dan asking Boston Cares staff where we needed the most help, and food insecurity was the answer. Dan has been volunteering regularly at My Brother’s Table ever since!
Originally, Dan became involved with Boston Cares because of our wide range of volunteer opportunities to choose from. From park cleanups to food insecurity projects to virtual letter writing, Dan was drawn to the breadth of options we have available. He has remained an active member of the Boston Cares community because of the relationships formed he has formed at My Brother’s Table as well as Union Square Farmers Market. He always enjoys the company at My Brother’s Table, as both the staff and volunteers are very friendly and share the common goal of helping the community and the visitors who come in during any given shift.
A typical volunteer shift at My Brother’s Table starts out with going to the kitchen to meet with either the Volunteer Leader or staff-person to be assigned duties. Currently, My Brother’s Table has a take-out model of food distribution, so volunteers help cook, package, and distribute food as well as stocking shelves in the storage room. When asked what the most rewarding aspect of volunteering at My Brother’s Table is, Dan responded that with food insecurity being such a big issue, he finds it rewarding to give back by contributing to something so essential to people’s lives. Seeing the sense of happiness on clients faces brightens his day, and he finds great fulfillment in the sense of community and caring for each other. To Dan, what’s special about Boston Cares is that you can try out a lot of different volunteer opportunities, and when you find what you like to do you can develop deeper connections.