I recently needed to pick up 100 orange helium balloons to be used as decorations during Operation Orange, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s 24-hour volunteer event. But I had a problem— 100 balloons could not possibly fit in my little white Buick. So my team contacted our volunteer driver, Bruce, who agreed to transport me and the balloons in one of the Foodbank’s large box trucks
At 7:00 a.m. on the morning of Operation Orange, Bruce and I met at the Foodbank. I’ve seen Bruce dozens of times; we’ve said hello in the hallways and waved to each other in the parking lot. But for the 20 minutes I spent riding with him, I came to understand his kindness and the joy he brings to the life of others. And now, I am proud to call him a friend.
Bruce began volunteering at the Foodbank three years ago as “something to keep him busy,” but soon he found a passion. “I saw a Foodbank semi-truck down my street and I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way a little Foodbank could fill that semi,” Bruce recalled. “So I decided to tour the Foodbank’s facility where I learned that they actually have SIX semi-trucks and two box trucks. Every day it amazes me the magnitude of food that would be wasted if the Foodbank wasn’t here.”
Bruce is one of the few people I’ve met who gets to see every aspect of hunger-relief in our community. Not only does he volunteer to pick up donated food almost daily for the Foodbank, every Wednesday he volunteers at his church’s food pantry where he gives the food from the Foodbank to families struggling with hunger. And at the end of that shift, he delivers food to strangers and friends who can’t make it to the pantry.
Carrying those helium balloons with Bruce that day—and laughing with him that I might be carried away by them—I had a moment of clarity: Last year at the Foodbank, we enjoyed the efforts of more than 9,000 volunteers. Let me say that again—9,000 volunteers, who, like Bruce, came into our Foodbank because they care about our mission and those we serve, and because they have a love for our community.
And what if each of those volunteers had a heart like Bruce’s? What if every person I see in this building has a deep connection with family and friends and showed that love by volunteering, donating their time and talents.
Then it hit me—they do.
So if you’re like Bruce and are looking for something to “keep you busy” or simply want to experience genuine kindness all around you, come take a tour of your Foodbank.
We truly look forward to welcoming you.
By: Kat Pestian, Marketing and Community Engagement Manager at the Akron-Canton Reginoal Foodbank