As the new Volunteer Services and Communications Assistant, one of the things I am pleased to hear so often is “Wow, I never knew you guys did so much.” My response is always “I know, right!?”
When I accepted this year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA working at a food bank in Sacramento, I had no idea what I was getting into. Luckily for me, and the Sacramento community, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) does a whole lot more cool and exciting stuff than just handing out food.
For example, a few weeks ago, I volunteered in After School Academy. Now, I had never tutored middle school-aged children, but I learned so much watching Miss Krystal calmly address each of the thousand questions I’m sure she gets everyday while also joking and laughing with the kids like they were her own family. Then, after study time, the kids had Science Club where they made colorful, exploding volcanoes – so much fun for both the kids and volunteer tutors alike! I had to wonder, are all food banks like this?
In Adult Education, I am meeting people whose lives have been changed because of the ESL classes and GED tutoring services offered here. I even met one woman who said when she first came here 3 years ago, she couldn’t even say hello in English. Now she is studying to take her GED in English, can you believe it? And what made it possible was that she was able to bring her daughter to Playcare, SFBFS’ on-site childcare program for children 1-5, while she was attending some of her classes. Surely this isn’t typical of all food banks.
What is possibly the most important element at SFBFS is the staff. Everyone here genuinely cares about the programs they work in and the people they help. Whether it’s taking the time to meet individually with every parent who is entering a child into our Youth Education program or throwing community baby showers for expectant families in our Parent Education program, SFBFS’ staff are prepared to help people on an individual level.
We are not just working to serve The Hungry or The Unemployed population, we are working to serve our fellow beings, each unique in their own set of experiences, hopes and concerns. Here, we are helping individuals and their families to make a plan for self-sufficiency and financial independence, providing them with the tools and encouragement they need along the way. And I couldn’t be happier to be part of such an amazing team!
Submitted by Kira Graves, Volunteer & Communications Assistant - AmeriCorps VISTA at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.