“Giving Time” focuses on the invaluable volunteers who donate more than 314,000 hours to Second Harvest each year, more than doubling the size of our staff.
Just nine years into their retirement Harry Schaecher lost his wife Marlene, in December of 2002. The whole concept of life changed in that moment. He worked for the Mead Company for thirty two years. Now it was their time, together. No more schedules, no more business trips apart. But after only nine years of travel and happiness, Harry was alone. Shortly thereafter, he ran into an old friend while out getting a cup of coffee. That friend had changed his entire livelihood since he and Harry had last seen one another. His friend had gone from school teacher to lawyer. The friend’s advice, “Don’t wait too long.” Whatever he was to do next in life, Harry knew he shouldn’t wait. That spring, he began to volunteer at Second Harvest. Just two days a week, at first. “Tuesdays and Thursdays. It didn’t take long and I said just as well, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.”
That was twelve years ago. Harry can still be found volunteering three days a week, every week, in our fresh produce sort room in the Cypress building. He started off when Second Harvest Food Bank operated one location in South San Jose. “I started at Curtner, filling orders. It’s highly structured today and order filling over there is precise. Back then you had to hunt for everything. But it was interesting….” He made the move from Curtner to Cypress in 2012. After initial reservations over the commute all the way across San Jose, Harry now takes the light rail to and from a stop near his home, forty-five minutes each way. No one would argue that Harry isn’t dedicated to his time spent volunteering. When asked about the breadth of his years of service and the unfathomable number of lives he’s touched by doing what he does, Harry says, simply, “it’s a nice feeling inside,” adding, “I do it because I want to.”
Harry also talks fondly about the community of volunteers, a community that he follows the lives of closely. “I feel like I have a new circle of friends. I had them since day one and they just keep coming.” When a regular volunteer didn’t arrive the day of his interview Harry inquired as to whether she was okay or not. Once informed of her whereabouts, he cheerily reported, “she plays roller derby. She’s the nicest person. You meet the nicest people here all the time. Those are good people to have on your checklist of friends.”
Former Director of Volunteer Services Kris Sulpizio-Mead speaks fondly of the long-time volunteer, saying if “you think about someone who is just plain nice, down to earth, welcoming and inviting, I think most [of Second Harvest’s] Volunteer staff would think of Harry. I’ve seen him countless number of times helping a new volunteer, showing them the ropes, extending that warm smile along with that great greeting of ‘good morning; how’s it going?'”
Second Harvest Food Bank’s Volunteer Coordinator David Saxton explains Harry’s tremendous value to the organization in no uncertain terms, “Harry is a volunteer who not only shows up and works hard supporting our programs but he also helps us to build community among our volunteers. New volunteers enjoy working and talking with him and he’s one of the reasons that frequent volunteers keep coming back. Community among volunteers is very important to a successful volunteer program because it motivates people to continue to give their time and Harry helps maintain that here at Second Harvest. So, because Harry wants to volunteer, he makes other people want to participate as well.”
***Want to volunteer at Second Harvest? Click here to find out how.