Today we continue our series of interviews with volunteers who make up the strong right arm of Wallingford service organizations. Volunteers are a vital part of any non-profit organization’s operations. Never has this been more true than over the last two years. As COVID’s impact has left many in our community struggling to stay afloat, local non-profits have had to adapt and scale up their programming to meet the ever changing and increased need. Throughout the pandemic, volunteers have been on the front lines, helping ensure families and individuals can access food, essential resources, and so much more.
Alison Parsons – FamilyWorks/Food Bank
Alison is a long-time resident of Wallingford who has a commitment to serving the community and wanted to share that with her children so they would learn to help others. One day while visiting the local library branch she noticed that her children could join a play group at FamilyWorks. This was the beginning of her relationship with the organization. Over the next 15 years, she and her family would donate and volunteer in many different ways. Once she had more time, she decided that she wanted to volunteer more regularly and asked “how can I help?” Well, where they really needed her was in the Food Bank, so she became a weekly volunteer.
For several years she worked one day a week for a few hours, that is, until the pandemic hit. Many of their volunteers were older and in the early days of 2020 they were being advised to just stay away from indoor gatherings. So Alison expanded her hours at the Food Bank to help take up the slack. During the pandemic the Food Bank became ever more in demand as jobs shut down and folks faced weeks with no pay checks.
The Food Bank rescues food from grocery stores that might otherwise go to waste. It also receives food items from many sources including neighbors, schools, churches and businesses holding food drives and from Food Lifeline, which buys food from commercial suppliers, often in bulk at discounted prices. The volunteers sort the food from the grocery stores and check to make sure it is still good. Some they reject to compost but most can be bagged for distribution. The Food Bank is only open limited hours because there are only so many volunteers and the storage space is limited.
Some of the volunteers are high school students who are working for required community service hours. Toward the end of the school year students may find themselves on a waiting list, since too many seem to wait till the last minute. But there are lots of ways the students can help today.
In addition to her work at the Wallingford Food Bank, Alison now serves on the Board of Directors of FamilyWorks. She is pleased to be able to represent the view from the front lines of the Food Bank on the Board as they discuss policies, budgets and fund raising. She feels she has learned so much and met so many good people while working at the Food Bank and serving on the Board.
There definitely are opportunities for more Wallingford folks to volunteer at the Food Bank. If you’d like to pitch in and help, even for just a few hours a week, visit the Volunteer page on the FamilyWorks website. There you can view Current Volunteer Opportunities, for the food bank or other programs, and fill out a Volunteer Interest Form to register your interest in becoming a FamilyWorks volunteer.
If you have suggestions for dedicated Wallingford volunteers we should interview, please send an email with contact information for your nominee to [email protected].