Making a Difference through Volunteering


Sarah Jeanne, a graduate of Colby College, who is also associated with the Young Adult Justice Program of the Presbyterian Church, has interned at A Place To Turn since July 2017. I spoke to her about what volunteering means to her and how A Place to Turn is making a difference in the community.

Why did you start volunteering at 'A Place to Turn' in Natick? Why a Food Pantry?

Volunteering at A Place To Turn is an opportunity to give back to the community in a tangible way. Food is a basic need, so it is rewarding to see the weight lifted off a client's shoulders when they leave the pantry with up to two weeks worth of food.

What are the challenges of volunteering in a food pantry?

Every day at A Place To Turn looks different, so our volunteers are very adaptable. It can be challenging to keep up with the demand on a busy day, but we are continuously brainstorming ways to improve the shopping experience for our clients.

Is donating food the only way to help a food pantry?

There are numerous ways to help A Place To Turn fulfill its mission to serve the Metrowest community in addition to donating food. We have several other programs that aren't food-centric, such as Donate. This non-profit charity associate with A Place To Turn collects sanitary pads and tampons for teen girls and young women in need of feminine products. We also have The Diaper Project, which provides families with diapers and wipes for their infants and toddlers. Holding a diaper or feminine hygiene product drive can help us continue to provide these additional services to clients.

In a typical week how many people donate food items to the pantry?

In a typical week, we receive food donations from about forty individuals and organizations. These donations supplement the food we receive from local grocery stores and the food we purchase to keep our shelves stocked.

Volunteering provides young adults with a unique glimpse into their community. It is an opportunity to form connections with people from different backgrounds and learn about immediate community needs.

How much support does your Food Pantry get from your town?

A Place To Turn is fortunate to receive generous support from the surrounding Metrowest community. This support comes in the form of donations, volunteers, and food drives. Community support keeps our pantry running and allows us to serve our clients to the best of our ability.

Are Food Drives an effective way to collect items for the pantry?

Food drives are a very helpful way of collecting items for our pantry, as long as the items are not expired! These drives allow us to keep a variety of brands and items on our shelf. A Place To Turn is a choice food pantry, so items from food drives provide clients with a more realistic shopping experience.

Do you often receive damaged, expired items?

Unfortunately, we receive expired items too often. As a food pantry, we want to provide our clients with a dignified shopping experience, which does not include giving them expired items. Just because you don't want to throw food away does not mean you should donate it to your local food pantry, because then we have to throw it away and pay to empty our dumpster.

Describe a typical week/day for a Food Pantry volunteer.

A Place To Turn has dedicated volunteers who keep our food pantry running! These volunteers shop with clients, stock shelves, pick up donations, and work in the clothing section. Their hard work helps us serve as many clients as possible.

Do you think food pantries are making a difference in addressing hunger/poverty?

A Place To Turn was started to combat food insecurity in a suburban environment. This pantry provides emergency food and clothing relief to address the immediate problem. That being said, it is necessary to continuously identify root causes of food insecurity and create programs that work towards creating long-term solutions.

Any message for the community/young adults who might be interested in volunteering?

Volunteering provides young adults with a unique glimpse into their community. It is an opportunity to form connections with people from different backgrounds and learn about immediate community needs. Find a cause that interests you and devote some time towards it! The time you spend volunteering will not only help the people you serve, but it will also impact your life.