Finding Fellowship and Giving Back at Ozarks Food Harvest
After volunteering with Ozarks Food Harvest for six years, Don Landon knows the impact that volunteering can have on everyone involved. During his time at The Food Bank, Don has found both fulfillment and lifelong friendships, and he now looks forward to his time here every week.
Don has been retired from his career as a sociology professor since 2005, but has recognized the importance of volunteering since 1998, giving his time to various causes over the years. He first came to Ozarks Food Harvest with a church group in 2015, and was so impressed with the volunteer coaches and the efficiency of his time here that he looked into returning by himself, sparking a routine that has continued for six years.
“We met the volunteer coaches and were so impressed with how much they interacted with us. They were interested in our lives, not just in instructing and leading us. After that I went on your website to discover how I could volunteer again,” says Don.
Don now attends two volunteer sessions every week. There are many reasons he looks forward to his mornings at The Food Bank. At the age of 91, Don says he feels lucky to have the strength and energy to continue his work here, enjoying the brisk pace that keeps him moving.
Don explains, “The work I do at Ozarks Food Harvest provides a genuine service, and that is very important to me. I appreciate the value of the work, but I’m also gratified by the fellowship I have here.”
Don has made several close connections with fellow volunteers. After years of working side by side for a common cause, Don and a group of regular volunteers began to schedule monthly meals together, first at restaurants, and then potluck-style in each other’s homes.
“I live alone, and being here every week is an opportunity to socialize. The people I’ve met here, we have a close fellowship. They care about and support you, and they jest with you,” Don says, chuckling.
Along with the friends he’s made, Don also appreciates the volunteer coaches he interacts with at every session, saying, “A couple years back I asked, ‘Who is it that hires these coaches that can relate to us so well?’ You all are capable of hiring excellent people.”
The volunteer coaches are a vital part of making each session pleasant and efficient by teaching and guiding the process. In fact, Don says that after his experiences with many organizations, Ozarks Food Harvest stands out for its well-managed, friendly volunteer system.
Those who give time at Ozarks Food Harvest help sort and pack several categories of food, including dry goods, produce, dairy, and more. Volunteers inspect donated items for food safety guidelines and expiration dates before it is sent to partner agencies. Don says he can’t pick a favorite session, but he finds it encouraging that they are able to rescue so much food that grocery stores couldn’t sell but is still fit for consumption.
“We rescue a lot of produce that’s edible, but maybe the appearance isn’t as good. I look forward to hearing how many pounds we sorted and meals we provided at the end of each session. We always hoot and clap and holler when we hear that,” says Don.
“I wish people could identify more closely with people who are hungry,” he continues, “For those of us who are comfortable, it seems hard to imagine how many people are food insecure, but it’s a very real issue.”
Ozarks Food Harvest recognizes the prominence of food insecurity in our service area and values the many hours of work that volunteers contribute. Our volunteers allow us to feed 30,000 people across southwest Missouri every week. Thank you so much to volunteers like Don who make this possible! If you are interested in donating your time at Ozarks Food Harvest, visit ozarksfoodharvest.org/volunteer to learn more, and you might even get to meet Don!