Friday, November 27, 2009

Attittude of Gratitude

This past Tuesday marked my third year of involvement with the Alameda Food Bank. My first volunteering gig was helping to hand out turkeys on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in the old trailer. Shortly after I arrived a Board member arrived with his son to assist - and it turned out that I knew this Board member from my previous life in financial aid!

So it is three years later and the food bank has been booming. We're serving half again as many clients as we were three years ago. Now a supervisor, I have recruited and trained (or, frankly, had other train) hundreds of volunteers, some of whom have come and gone, some of whom have come and are still working with me. I have managed the food bank through my colleague's parental leave; I have "shopped" at the Alameda County Community Food Bank; and picked up gleanings from the farmers' market, Trader Joe's, and Safeway. I have helped redesign the way we give out turkeys. I have attended Board meetings, and I have driven the forklift. I have counseled completed many, many intakes, and counseled families on local services. I've done a little college financial aid counseling. I have become good friends with my colleague and his family, and so has Zirpu.

I've been thinking about what was going on for me when I started at the food bank. I was really, really depressed, and didn't consciously know it. I had thought I was on the career track for life, figuring out what my next steps would be in the state association. When I left my last financial aid job, though it was my choice, I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I had lost my identity as a professional, work I was proud of. Suddenly I was not doing it anymore, and was unable to pick up where I left off and look for a new gig immediately.

When people ask me how I got involved in the Alameda Food Bank, when I tell the story I always include that the AFB saved my life. Thinking about how miserable I was when I started, I especially realize how happy I am now. I recognize the sadness and the happiness in other people who have become volunteers. We do a lot more than give away food; we are all recipients of something at the food bank.

** If you're interested, please assist your local food bank by going to Feeding America, formerly America's Second Harvest, to find out how to help people in your community.

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