DENVER — The inside of the Jewish Family Service food pantry may look like a neighborhood grocery store, but it’s so much more than that. Operated largely by volunteers, the food pantry serves a growing number of people suffering from food insecurity.
“Our pantry has seen 18 to 20 new families coming to us every single pantry day,” JFS CEO Linda Foster said, adding that the increased need for help means an increased need for volunteers. “You can never have enough staff to do all the work to respond to the needs of the community, and the needs are growing every single day.”
That’s why volunteers like Kathy Sabin are so important. She started volunteering right after she retired from the finance industry. That was right before the pandemic started, and other than when volunteer activities were put on hold, she’s been helping out at Jewish Family Service whenever possible.
“I started to pack produce and meats, and then we'd load them into cars,” Sabin said. “Then as things opened up even further, we were allowed to have people in, and you help them actually shop for what they need. And now I'm coming here every day.”
Sabin does mean every day. Some weeks she is on the volunteer schedule five days a week. Not only is it a welcome change from her old job, it gives her a chance to help others that are going through something she went through once as a child.
“My dad was out of a job for a year, and so I was on the school lunch program where they gave you a 50-cent piece, and you handed it to the lunch people so nobody knew that you didn't have money for food,” she said.
Sabin was far from the only JFS volunteer to show up during the pandemic, but food security programs manager Doug Vega said her dedication through the rough times was a bright spot on what could have been dark days.
“She started with one or two shifts and then, very quickly, every week became a regular volunteer,” Vega said. “She's here on the schedule every day this week at least for one shift, but most of the time, she's here three times a week for two shifts.”
It’s a lot of hard work, but it's something Sabin said is well worth the effort.
“I feel in my heart that this is something that I enjoy and know that it's what I was supposed to do,” Sabin said.
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