Volunteers experience true meaning of serving others

Students brought in canned foods to their forth period classes for the Super Bowl of Caring can drive this week. Photo by Trevor Stiff.

Students brought in canned foods to their forth period classes for the Super Bowl of Caring can drive this week. Photo by Trevor Stiff.

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By Caroline Carter & Madison Weaver

Students brought in canned foods to their forth period classes for the Super Bowl of Caring can drive this week. Photo by Trevor Stiff.

Though many people participate in community service just to meet mandatory service hour requirements, some have a deeper reason for giving up hours in their day to serve others. At the North Texas Food Bank, over 500 volunteers come every week to show others how much they care.

The North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982. By providing and distributing about 90,000 nutritious meals a day, the NTFB has greatly impacted the seniors, adults and children of 13 North Texas counties. The NTFB raised about $10 million during the holiday season for families in need.

“This whole year is about rethinking hunger; we want to make these people healthier and stronger,” Communications and Public Affairs coordinator Diana Alvarez said. “We are focusing on not only providing more food, but making sure the food that we are providing is as healthy as it can be.”

However, healthier meals are more expensive than the typical canned goods. One of the more expensive programs the NTFB created is Food 4 Kids, a program that aims to provide food for elementary school children who would not have food available on the weekends. Approximately 8,250 children received food every weekend during the last school year.

“We fill these backpacks with food, and they are given to kids every week,” Alvarez said. “The food is meant to get them through the weekend; they are kids that probably would not eat anything during the weekend because they are so dependent on the reduced lunches at school. Every bag costs us about $5, and that is because we just want to try and make the food as healthy as possible.”

With the economic issues that have crossed America, more new faces have been brought to the doors of the NTFB, and all have been accepted. Since 2008, the NTFB has doubled the number of meals they have provided. At the same time, the NTFB has begun to obtain 50 percent more fresh produce as opposed to canned goods.

“Our focus is on healthier foods, but we accept any donation,” Alvarez said. “We received a lot of donations through the holiday season, which is also when we receive most of our volunteers because everyone is in the spirit of giving. However, our need for more volunteers never goes away.”

Due to the extensive amount of food the NTFB distributes, thousands of volunteers are needed to organize and load the food into boxes to be shipped out to agencies across the area. Volunteer Coordinator of the NTFB, Sophia Sindalovsky, works to organize the volunteers to make sure there are enough volunteers to successfully stock boxes to go to the various agencies.

“We need all the assistance we can get,” Sindalovsky said. “Because we have so many agencies that we distribute to, we have to get the food packaged and sent out. Hunger never stops and there is always a constant need for the work we do.”

On Saturday, about 50 volunteers gathered at the warehouse ready to work. Mike Klein of Garland volunteered along with his daughter and son. Klein organized boxes for the Family Food program, which distributes a week’s worth of food to families in need.

“This is our third time to volunteer,” Klein said. “We originally started because my son needed some Boy Scout service hours. He has already fulfilled those but we feel the need to keep coming back. [Volunteering] is very fulfilling as it satisfies a part of the soul that I wasn’t aware was missing.”

This is typically common with many volunteers. Most students will have to gain service hours at some point in their high school education, but even after the hours are completed, the volunteers tend to return, as the experience is very unique.

Shelley Embry of Dallas from the Volunteer Center of North Texas also volunteered on Saturday along with other members who regularly volunteer at the NTFB.

“Nothing is greater than volunteering,” Embry said. “It takes the focus off of yourself and helps you look at others in need. It gives you a since of fulfillment at the end of the day because you made a difference.”

As the NTFB only staffs a small number of full time employees to organize and box the food, it is essential that there be plenty of volunteers at all times. Roy Ellis, one of the full time workers at the warehouse, sees the impact that the volunteers make every week when people come in to receive their meals as well as the experiences the volunteers have.

“It is a real joy to see the people’s faces while they are helping out others,” Ellis said. “It is very exciting to see that they enjoy what they are doing.”

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