“Giving Time” focuses on the invaluable volunteers who donate more than 310,000 hours to Second Harvest each year, more than doubling the size of our staff.

Special Blog Post featuring Steve Norris, as told to Matt Mastrangelo of Second Harvest Food Bank.

Steve

My name’s Steve Norris and I was born in Boulder, CO but grew up in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. Moved up to Santa Cruz in 1968 and I’ve been in the Greater Bay Area ever since.

I started out working in high-tech companies here in the Valley. Then about 22 years ago I went to work for a holding company for Pacific Bell, Pacific Telesis. Then through a series of mergers it wound up being AT&T. I just retired from there at the beginning of April.

I first volunteered at Second Harvest in June 2001. I belonged to a singles group called Meeting for Good, that unfortunately no longer exists. They mixed social activities with community service activities. Second Harvest was one of the stops on the community service activities. And I went from there to a group called One Brick that also occasionally does work here and One Brick exposed me to a number of non-profits around the Bay Area. I worked as far up as Oakland, with a number of different non-profits.

At one point I got overloaded and needed to kind of cut back a little bit, so I decided to do 100% of my volunteer activities here at Second Harvest. Second Harvest impressed me as being the most well-organized and efficient of all those non-profit organizations I worked at. I stuck with Second Harvest and after a couple of years was made a volunteer Team Leader.

(Team Leaders arrive early and organize food sorts and distributions.)

Steve and Amy give thumbs up at Second Harvest's annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Steve and Second Harvest’s Amy give thumbs up at our annual volunteer appreciation luncheon

As a volunteer coming in, I think if you walked into the middle of a work session it might look chaotic, I kid the volunteers sometimes that it’s organized chaos. It’s extremely well-organized from a volunteer point of view. And looking from the other side, Second Harvest is extremely efficient in the way it uses funds. I think in general the organization appreciates and treats the volunteers very well. And that appeals to me.

From a personal perspective, it’s disappointing to me that we have hunger at all. These two counties are a couple of the richest in America and anybody who lives here knows that the cost of living is just out of control, but that we have any hunger at all just strikes me as unfair. And shouldn’t be.

I moved away from home at a fairly early age and was on my own. And between high school and college I took a break and in this area, employment was difficult. I had trouble, literally, putting food on the table. Back then I didn’t know of the existence of food banks. I’m not sure at that time, if there was one. I was never able to take advantage of a food bank. I read the materials put together by Second Harvest about the circumstances of these families and frankly, it’s just heartbreaking. I can understand people working 2, 3 jobs to support their families and there’s more month than money. They just run out of money before the end of the month. That’s it. And I know what that was like.

Steve and carrots

There are two reasons I keep coming back to volunteer. First is, I’ve gotten more out of volunteering at Second Harvest for the past 16 years than Second Harvest gotten out of me. I feel like this has been very much a growth opportunity for me.

I am far from a natural leader. It was very difficult for me to come to a group of people and provide leadership. But, through my work here at Second Harvest, I’ve become what I hope is a better leader. And it’s been very instructive, and good growth for me.

The other thing is that even when I was working, I feel badly, it could be my worst day at work, beaten up on both fronts, and then I come volunteer at a 6-8 shift in the evening. And work two hours, it’s hard work out there, sorting produce or canned goods, or whatever. And because of the energy of what people are accomplishing here and the energy of the volunteers, I’ll actually leave at the end of those two hours feeling better than when I walked in the door. So you just have the world’s best volunteers here, and that’s all there is to it…

It’s a great workout, too. I tell all the volunteers they won’t have to go to the gym tomorrow!

***If you would like to volunteer at Second Harvest, visit SHFB.org/volunteer