Without the help of volunteers, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank’s response to the pandemic could have looked different. In 2020, the Food Bank welcomed 15,000 volunteers, completing 37,000 shifts for a total of 159,000 hours helping on-site and at food distribution sites.
Among the volunteers is Mary Connors. She has volunteered with the Food Bank since August 2009, and despite having the title of volunteer, without a doubt, she has become a part of the Food Bank family and joined the force to end hunger in Los Angeles County.
As a young child, Connors didn’t realize that her family was struggling financially, and was having a hard time finding food assistance. Now that she’s older, she knows what thousands of families are going through, and it inspires her while working with the Food Bank.
“Food should not be a right or a privilege – food is a necessity,” Connors said. “It breaks my heart that people don’t have it.”
In the 12 years of service Connors has committed to the Food Bank, she has likely performed almost every job, from storing and gleaning produce, to producing the food boxes that the 900,000 clients the Food Bank sees each month receive at drive-throughs or through direct programs and agencies, as well as distributing these boxes to those in need at monthly drive-throughs.
“I just love being a part of the Food Bank,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know most of the warehouse staff. I used to donate money about once a year, and about two years ago, I became a monthly donor, as well. It’s really important, and it brings me a lot of joy.”
It’s thanks to volunteers like Mary that the Food Bank can do more for LA County. In 2020, the hours and shifts completed by volunteers were the equivalent of 77 full-time employees.
“I think the majority of this type of work is done by volunteers; it’s a great need,” said Connors.
“Before covid, and when people under 18 could volunteer, I saw as many as 150-300 volunteers. After covid, because of social distancing, most of the time we have, maybe 30 people. We seem to get a lot done with 30 people, it kind of amazes me,” she added.
To be a volunteer, the Food Bank solely requires persons to be 18 and older, and they must wear a mask and maintain social distancing while completing their hours. A simple task that thousands have accepted throughout the pandemic, and without realizing it, have made a major impact in the lives of thousands of families.
“Not everybody has money to give, but everybody’s got time,” said Connors. “On a Saturday, you’re there for three hours, here, you’re here for three hours. In three hours, you have a huge impact on another human being. And that’s what we’re here for, to take care of other people, take care of each other.”
It’s thanks to hunger heroes like Mary that the Food Bank can continue serving the community through a time of greater need. If you would like to learn more about volunteering at the Food Bank, please visit our Volunteer page. Or if you’re in a position to do so, please donate.