Organization: Greater Chicago Food Depository
Volunteer Service: 20+ years
What is the mission of the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD)?
GCFD is Chicago’s food bank. Through their work and state of the art facility they distribute food and inspire hope for hungry people in Cook County. That includes over 700 partners to ensure nutritious food is available year-round.
How are you involved with the GCFD?
I have volunteered with the organization for more than 20 years. In 2008, I got involved in a leadership capacity as an Event Steering Committee member and the champion for Associated Bank’s partnership.
Can you share more about Associated Bank’s partnership with GCFD?
As part of our charitable giving program, Associated has a large volunteer and charitable commitment with the organization. Over the years, colleagues have volunteered hundreds of hours to help the organization achieve its mission and we are the presenting sponsor of their largest fundraiser, the annual Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards.
In addition to supporting GCFD’s hunger programs, our charitable dollars help support its workforce training program that prepares unemployed and underemployed adults for productive careers in hospitality and supply chain fields. They really break down the barriers by teaching the skills needed to be successful at top Chicago restaurants, even providing transportation to the facility and interviews.
What are you most proud of through your involvement with GCFD?
GCFD is one of the most professionally run nonprofits I have ever seen. They have a great volunteer program and a huge facility that accommodates hundreds of people and organizations each year. Nonprofits across the country will often visit the facility to observe their operations in order to improve their own. It’s an amazing example of what a nonprofit can accomplish.
Why did you first get involved?
I know there are people in our community who don’t have the ability to make ends meet and that it’s hard to accomplish anything on an empty stomach. When I saw how well run the GCFD was, I wanted to keep giving my time and charitable contributions to the organization. I can visibly see where my money is going and how my time is making a difference for others.
What do you feel is the most rewarding part of volunteering?
I think the most rewarding part of volunteering is knowing you are making a difference. We get so focused in our personal and work lives that taking time to volunteer can be really energizing. Participating in the hands on activities—no matter if you’re loading bags of pasta or sorting cans—can be a lot of fun with others and you get to see the impact you’re having as you work through your task.
How do you feel volunteering has changed you as a person?
It makes me more appreciative of what I have and my ability to give back. I am inspired to give back more when I see the impact or value I add to my community outside of work.
What advice would you give other colleagues looking to start volunteering?
Find something that speaks to you and give it a try. If that doesn’t work, push outside of your comfort zone to try something else. Eventually you will find something that inspires you.
I would also add that what you do for others can have an amazing impact. Someone helped me early on in my career that didn’t have to and it’s had an impact on me ever since. I feel strongly about doing the same for others because we all have something to give. It benefits everyone to pay it forward.