We all have a Role to Play by Bob Aiken

April 18, 2013
by Bob Aiken

In March, I had the opportunity to spend a Saturday volunteering at A Just Harvest, an agency of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
By Bob Aiken, Feeding America President and CEO.

Volunteering is a deeply personal, yet inherently shared experience. One Saturday each month, I volunteer at an agency in the Chicago area. Sometimes my family joins me. Other times, I am by myself. In each case, I am there not as the CEO of Feeding America but rather as one of the volunteers there to serve people. Few experiences are as powerful as volunteering with others to help enable someone to make a difference in their own life.

Earlier this year, I visited an amazing pantry in Wheaton, Illinois called People's Resource Center, a partner agency to the Northern Illinois Food Bank. I volunteered to staff the bread station and pass out loaves of bread to clients. As a young woman approached me, I asked her just one simple question. She looked like she was in a hurry and the pantry had a line literally out the door, so I didn't get the chance to ask her about her day or even ask her name.

I simply asked her a question that I know I've heard a hundred times, "What kind of bread would you like today?"

She looked at me and she said, "No one has ever asked me that."

I will never forget her. I will never forget how it felt when I was able to hand her the loaf of bread she wanted—not just the loaf of bread I thought she wanted or that someone thought she wanted—but the loaf of bread she would have bought herself if she could, the loaf of bread that she would bring home to her pantry and use to make sandwiches for her family.

Today, I find regular volunteer service to be instrumental to my work. Not only do I experience the results of our work in action, I get to personally connect with our clients. For Feeding America, connecting with our clients leads to better processes and more meals for more people—certainly a goal worth our undivided attention.

For me, connecting with our clients puts my work into perspective. When I'm in the board room, I know exactly why reaching our goals is so incredibly important. I've met and am continuously inspired by the clients we serve, and I know that each incremental meal we are able to provide really, truly matters.

Across the Feeding America network, in more than 200 food banks and 61,000 agencies nationwide, volunteers, clients, businesses and government come together every single day to make a difference for our neighbors in need.

This month, in honor of National Volunteer Month, or once every month, or however often you are able, please volunteer. Learn how you can get involved with Feeding America locally and virtually. We all have a role to play and together we can solve hunger in our communities and nationwide.

Tags: Volunteer , Illinois , Northern Illinois Food Bank
 

Stay Informed

Get email updates about what we're doing to help solve hunger and how you can help.