Meet Mark. Not only is he a member of EFAA’s Board of Directors, our former Interim Executive Director, a regular food bank volunteer and generous donor, he is also the person you’ll see doing whatever needs to be done around EFAA, like mowing the lawn or chipping ice in the parking lot to keep it safe. What fuels his energy, hard work and dedication?
“I grew up in a family where service to the community was an expectation. So, when I retired, I decided to spend my retirement time volunteering in our community to do what I could to help others. I learned about EFAA while volunteering at my first gig with Community Food Share (EFAA is one of CFS partner agencies). I was still looking to fill out my dance card and EFAA’s mission resonated with me.
I loved the idea of a safety-net organization that also focused some of their time and energy on helping people move out of poverty. Although I have never lived in poverty, I grew up in a low to moderate income family where we lived a relatively spartan life. We never truly lacked any basic necessity, as EFAA’s clients do, but we also did not have much more than the basic necessities.
I started volunteering in EFAA’s exceptional food bank – occasionally doing food pick-ups at CFS, grocery stores, and food drives. The work itself is a bit mundane, but the interactions with our clients, volunteers, and staff are precious, making the commitment of my time well worth the effort. There is a true feeling of community and camaraderie among the staff and volunteers as we all work to help those in need. It is also wonderful to be able to build up a relationship with our clients, getting to know them and their families more personally. It is both a humbling and a rewarding experience.
As a retired person, I have always felt more comfortable volunteering my time than donating much of my treasures. I have a lot of time but money is a bit more limited in retirement. I became a more significant donor this past year based upon the experiences I had shadowing some of our staff as they met with our clients. I was very, very impressed with our staff’s interactions with our clients; they were compassionate, professional, and focused on helping understand the individual client’s situation and trying to find the right way forward. Many of our clients’ situations are very disheartening. I just cannot imagine what it would be like to try to raise a family on a salary of $15,000 a year. I was equally impressed with our clients, most of whom are working hard to lift their family out of their current situation.
I had one particular experience where a couple with five children, aged 1 to 12, found themselves out on the streets after the husband had a car accident and was permanently disabled. The wife had a job but even with her husband’s disability income, it was just not enough. They were currently living out of their van – all seven of them. With all seven of the family members in the case manager’s room, the woman clearly laid out their situation in an organized, concise, and composed manner that was truly impressive. I left that meeting with a commitment to be more generous with my limited retirement monies, knowing that my donation would help those who are less fortunate than my wife and I are.”