Here at the Chester County Food Bank, we are so blessed to have a dedicated, passionate group of volunteers who help us continue our mission of addressing food insecurity in our communities. We enjoy introducing you to some of the folks that give generously of their time and energy to the Food Bank — we honestly couldn’t do what we do without them.
One of our long-term volunteers is Sarah Walls, a Downingtown resident who spends two to three days a week (plus one Friday each month) volunteering at CCFB. Five years ago, Sarah retired from her job as a technical administrator for the engineering department of MEI in West Goshen. After taking her first few months of retirement to clean her house from top to bottom, repaint her kitchen and tackle “all the things you can’t find time to do when you work,” Sarah began looking for other ways to spend her time.
“I’ve always had the desire since I was in my early 30s to help people who find themselves short of food,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to retire and work in that area, which is what I did.”
She spent some time during her first year of retirement volunteering at Lord’s Pantry of Downingtown and has been coming to us for the past four years. Sarah’s administrative skills are put to great use: She works at the front desk, fills out spreadsheets and answers the phones.
She finds the work — and the work environment — fulfilling.
“I love being here; I love being able to be a part of helping someone who’s in need,” she said. “What I especially like is that people here are like a family. Everyone cares for each other and supports each other. They treat the volunteers like family; they know you by name, they know about things going on in your life, they’re there to support you. To them, it’s more than a job, so to the volunteers, it’s more than just volunteering.”
Sarah has taken her passion for helping people even further, and two and a half years ago, helped to start a small food cupboard at her church, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in West Chester. All of its food comes from CCFB and is used mostly for people in emergency situations. “But,” Sarah said, “we try to connect them with one of the local food cupboards if they’re having ongoing problems.” For 2018, Sarah says she’s looking for even more ways to get involved in fighting food insecurity and hunger in her community!
When asked where her passion around these issues comes from, she looked to her family. She grew up in West Bradford as 1 of 13 on a working farm. Even though the family was so large, she says her mother would always help people in need. “I think it’s hereditary … all my brothers and sisters work in areas where they’re helping people, and it’s even going down to the next generation! A lot of my nieces and nephews are in social work and fields like that,” she noted.
Sarah says that volunteering at CCFB has taught her a lot about how our entire system works, from how the food comes in to how it’s distributed and all the paperwork in between. She’s also seen up close how our community partners like Wegmans give resources that make a difference, especially in emergencies. “On the outside, you don’t see how it works, but it’s a whole process that we go through to make sure that nobody goes hungry. There are so many little things that go on that the Food Bank does that people don’t know about,” she said.
But her favorite part has been learning about how to get people connected to where they need to be. On the second Friday of each month, she does outreach work, signing people up for CCFB’s Senior Food Box program.
“It’s more than giving out food, it’s encouraging people and learning more about them so you can help make their situation the best it can be. This all comes from the training I get from the Food Bank; it teaches you how to look, watch and listen,” she said. “That kind of stuff gets me more out in the community, which is where I want to be.”
Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.
The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.
Photos: Chester County Food Bank