In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Week, we wanted to let you know about two very special people who volunteer with Second Harvest. Every year the Food Bank nominates a couple of our thousands of volunteers to be recognized by the Junior League of San Jose for their volunteering efforts. This year, we nominated Amanda West and Allen Cade.
Amanda West volunteers with our Brown Bag program, which focuses on providing nutritious food to seniors. Many seniors in Silicon Valley live on a fixed income and the food provided by Second Harvest is invaluable to maintaining their health, while easing the burden on their wallets. Upon seeking a volunteering opportunity three years ago, Amanda knew she wanted to do something that involved work with seniors, feeling that they are an often forgotten segment of our population. Amanda volunteers at a distribution site in Santa Clara. She loves to see the faces of the people she helps each week, saying that when you call someone out by name, “they just light up.”
Amanda also really enjoys hearing about their day-to-day lives. According to Amanda, the Brown Bag distributions are an important social date for many of the seniors. “It’s on their calendar. No matter how small the story is, they’re just happy to tell it and have someone empathize with them.” Amanda definitely feels the “warm fuzzies” when giving back to her community by volunteering. What might seem routine, like a greeting or simply listening, has an impact both on the seniors and herself. “It’s a tiny thing, but it makes them so happy. And that in turn makes me happy. It’s a back and forth, for sure.”
Amanda offers advice to anyone thinking of volunteering with Second Harvest: “There’s no second thought; you should volunteer for Second Harvest because we are all here to help each other out.”
Amanda was nominated by the Food Bank’s Regional Program Manager Tiffany Tedesco, who had this to say: “Amanda creates the ideal environment at our distributions. She makes the Brown Bag site an Saint Clare Parish in Santa Clara a place that our members look forward to coming to. Not just because they know they will be able to pick up food but they are met with friendly faces and warmth from our volunteers.”
Allen Cade has been volunteering with the Food Bank for three years as one of our Nutrition Team Health Ambassadors. The Health Ambassadors play a critical role in Second Harvest’s success at meeting the needs of our community. Oftentimes the food we distribute may be unfamiliar to the recipient. This can commonly be related to cultural differences and familiarity with certain food versus the food someone might receive from Second Harvest. The Food Bank has found it vitally important to help people who receive food understand how to prepare something they may have never seen. This is where the Health Ambassadors come in. Health Ambassadors go to our distributions and host on-location demos of recipes that can be created using the food from that very distribution.
Allen chose to be a Health Ambassador because he loves cooking. “That’s what I do. One day I was thinking how we eat, and how we waste, and I thought there has to be something we can do that helps change the way we eat. As often happens you’re thinking about something like that and within a few days, I follow the Food Bank on Twitter and on Facebook and I can’t remember which it was, but within a couple of days of thinking about all of that, boom, there’s a tweet or a post about, “Hurry, last day to sign up for Health Ambassador at Second Harvest Food Bank.”
“And I thought, Health Ambassador, what is that? And I looked at it and went, hey, OK, that’s perfect. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m looking for.” After going through Health Ambassador training, Allen was thrilled with the role. “Ever since I’ve just been cruising along. I go back to the trainings for new Health Ambassadors. I am totally committed to it.”
Allen volunteers about eight times per month, primarily at our Brown Bag program distributions, but also at Family Harvest distributions which provide food to families and single-parents and their kids. Allen truly appreciates the wonderful experience that comes with his volunteerism. “It’s just natural. I don’t think, ‘I can be going out and doing something else.’ Or, ‘this is taking up my time.’ This is just natural.”
Allen was nominated by Second Harvest’s Nutrition Education Coordinator, Alex Navarro. Alex gushes when asked about Allen: “Having Allen as part of our nutrition team has showed us what selflessness and loyalty truly look like. He unknowingly inspires our communities, and makes it look so easy. Some superheroes like Allen don’t need capes! Thank you, my sous-chef!”
Allen explains the great relationship he has with Alex, and how it bolsters his efforts to focus on the nutritious, healthy food that he and the Food Bank are committed to providing to our community. “We talk all the time. We’re talking about food, we’re talking about cooking, we’re talking about the mission. That’s really what it’s all about. The mission of the Food Bank is my mission.”
Second Harvest is very proud to have Amanda and Allen among our many fantastic volunteers!
***If you would like to volunteer at Second Harvest, visit SHFB.org/volunteer