—by Keith Palau
Is it still volunteering if it feels more like fun than work? I’ve been involved in helping out at the West Side Oregon Food Bank with the official Timbers Army group for the past 18 months, and took over as the point person in 2015. I consider it an honor to be part of the TA, and have found that there’s a place for everyone who wants to get involved beyond the very important roles of paying dues and standing with us home and away.
East and West groups together at Bethany Pub post-OFB
Why did I first volunteer? Selfishly, the Beaverton OFB is 5 minutes from home, so it seemed like an easy way in which to join the TA. Plus I had a few friends who were going. I’ve made quite a few new friends now by scooping frozen veggies across from them.
We’ve now begun meeting afterwards at the unofficial home of the Westside TA, Bethany Public House, so the TA/OFB events have become a way for TA who may not know too many others to connect and make some friendships.
But those are important side benefits: the TA gets in there and works, and it’s been terrific to see how much gets done to help out fellow Oregonians who are experiencing a shortage of food for themselves and their families.
Between the East side and West side OFB volunteer shifts the TA took part in during March, June, and December, a total of 106,009 pounds of food were bagged and boxed, totaling 88,872 meals. To some degree, numbers that big are hard to get a feel for. The OFB staff do a good job of sharing some stories of individuals and families for whom these efforts make a very real and tangible difference. I have also met more than one fellow TA who told me that volunteering at OFB is a way of giving back, since they had personally received food from the OFB at some critical times in their lives.
December's OFB West TA volunteer group
Lexi Stern, who is point person for the East side, and I have a friendly rivalry over which side is doing a better job each time we volunteer. While she may try to point out that the East packed nearly twice as many pounds of food as the West did in December, I would graciously inform Lexi that potatoes weigh significantly more than corn kernels, and that it’s vastly easier to toss potatoes than to painstakingly and lovingly pack millions of kernels into plastic bags. Still, they do an ok job over there, I guess. ;-)
So if you’re looking for a way to make a difference as well as connect more broadly within the TA, I highly recommend picking one of the many volunteer activities that will come up in 2016, and jumping in with both feet. I’ll hope to see you there!