April is National Volunteer Month. To show appreciation for the many volunteers who serve the Foodbank every day, the organization presents three awards annually to dedicated and loyal community leaders. 

Barbara Justen of Stow is the recipient of the Volunteer of the Year award. Justen serves many departments within the Foodbank and volunteered 132 times, clocking nearly 450 hours of service in 2021. “Barb was an obvious choice for Volunteer of the Year. Not only does it feel as if she’s a staff person sometimes — she’s relied on by so many — but she serves with her whole heart,” said Leslie Genovese, Foodbank regional director of the Stark County Campus.

“What I’ve learned in my lifetime and experiences is to give what you can, when you can and as much as you can,” said Justen. “This is something I can do for people in need. And though I’ve never experienced hunger myself, as a teacher I’ve seen many children who have. To help others — it’s simply the right thing to do.”

The Rotary Club of Stow-Munroe Falls is the recipient of the Organization Volunteer Group of the Year award. The organization has been committed to serving with the Foodbank since 2013, sending volunteers monthly. They’ve recently partnered with Stow-Munroe Falls High School’s Interact Club to bring students to volunteer alongside the Rotarians. In 2021, the group provided 31 volunteers to the Foodbank, giving more than 135 hours of service.

“You never know what a family is going through, and hunger is universal,” said Mary Dula, the Rotarian in charge of organizing service opportunities. Her members enjoy knowing that they're making a direct impact in the lives of fellow community members. “Receiving the Organization Volunteer Group of the Year award shows our entire group how appreciated they are. They were ecstatic to receive this honor,” said Dula.

Receiving the Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year award is Huntington National Bank. Huntington has a longstanding partnership with the Foodbank as food security is an important commitment for them and aligns with one of their pillars of community support.

“We are very honored by and appreciative of being recognized as the Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year,” said Nick Browning, president of Huntington’s Mahoning Valley/Akron/Canton region. “In a world that is changing right before our eyes, the one consistent reality is that hunger is among us, now more than ever. People do not choose to be in need — but we can choose to help. Our purpose is to look out for all people. If we can help one child, one family — we are making a difference in a meaningful way.”

The Foodbank relies heavily on volunteers all year long. In 2021, it hosted nearly 4,500 volunteers who donated more than 54,000 hours of service. Volunteers are vital to the Foodbank’s ability to feed community members facing hunger. They serve in the warehouse by inspecting and packing donated food items, offer administrative support and help with special events, pick up food from food donors and deliver it to hot meal sites, assist families in the Foodbank’s food pantry and at drive-thru food distributions and so much more.

“We simply couldn’t do this work without the help from our volunteers,” said Dan Flowers, Foodbank president and CEO. “Thousands of volunteers give hours of their time each year to help people they’ll never meet. They do this work because they’re passionate about serving their community and they care for our neighbors who face hunger. Volunteers are the lifeblood of this organization and we’re forever grateful to them.”

To learn more about the Foodbank’s volunteer opportunities, visit akroncantonfoodbank.org.