Disabled Volunteers Work Wonders at MFB
The movement against hunger in Maryland has gained momentum over the last several years, and the Maryland Food Bank has mobilized a diverse group of individual supporters, public representatives, leaders in the private sector, and community partners. Three volunteer groups in particular have shined brightly in this movement to end hunger on the Eastern Shore.
At the height of the growing season, the Maryland Food Bank – Eastern Shore faces the challenge of processing large quantities of local produce donations and distributing them while they’re still at their peak freshness.
Luckily for us, we’ve got some big-hearted individuals who give their time every week — and they’re experts at sorting and prepping fresh fruits and vegetables for quick distribution.
“We’ve developed some really wonderful partnerships with nearby facilities that care for developmentally disabled individuals in the community,” explained Managing Director of the Maryland Food Bank – Eastern Shore Jennifer Small. “Since the produce has started coming into the warehouse at high volume, they’ve been sending in groups almost every day.”
Jennifer explained that these volunteers have been a huge help, sorting through produce and packaging it into smaller quantities for distribution to pantries, soup kitchens, and community partners all across the Eastern Shore.
And it’s a win-win for everyone involved, according to Jeff Brittingham, the community outreach director at Dove Pointe — one of the nonprofits committed to caring for disabled individuals in the community.
“It gives our residents the opportunity to engage with the outside community, and they love it,” Jeff explained. “And they know what they’re to do. They know that they’re here to help people who are hungry.”
At Dove Pointe, they’ve been sending volunteer groups to the food bank twice a week — and they have some individuals who are quite disappointed if they don’t get to go, Jeff says.
Meanwhile, at Bay Shore Services, another nearby service facility, they’ve increased their volunteering to help out with produce, from twice a week to every day last week.
“Today they got back and they were really excited because they told me they got to pick the good squash from the bad squash,” said Faith Church, the vocational director at Bay Shore Services. “They really love working with the fruits and vegetables.”
At the food bank, while regular visits from these groups provide much-needed help in the warehouse, they’ve also served to create a special bond with MFB team members.
“I have yet to see them come in or leave without a smile. Their visits are truly some of the highlights of the week for us,” said Jennifer.
At Lower Shore Enterprises, one of our long-standing partner facilities, the volunteer shifts provide valuable experience for disabled individuals who are working towards full or part-time employment.
“I know they’re gaining good work experience,” said Teresa Thaxton, the volunteer coordinator at Lower Shore. “I can see them learning. And they really take the job seriously.”
“I’m just really grateful that given our guys the opportunity,” Teresa added. “I’ve had a lot of other agencies that have turned down our offers to volunteer.”
When it comes to the movement to fight hunger in Maryland, the food bank’s relationship with Dove Pointe, Bay Shore, and Lower Shore has been a shining example of how volunteering can be transformative for everyone involved.
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