Every Monday morning, a group of volunteers have been meeting at Food Lifeline to sort food and share some laughs. They are known as the A-Team, volunteering with us for a combined total of 24 years!
(L to R) Sam Butay, Berta Nicol-Blades, Bob Henderson, Mary Grembowski, Hank Nguyen, Jolene Vrchota, Dennis Dixon, Terry Eisenhauer, Margaret Bradley
Each member came to Food Lifeline for a different reason. For Mary, Bob, and Dennis, this was a place to give back after retiring. For Berta, she volunteers in memory of a friend. “Food Lifeline is a place that brings people from all walks of life together for a singular mission”, Terry says. Our mission brought the A-Team through the front door, but Hank Nguyen and Sam Butay, Food Lifeline’s Repack Coordinators, has everyone coming back week after week. Sam and Hank, being on Food Lifeline’s team for 18 and 25 years respectively, welcome all volunteers to our Produce Recovery Center. “Hank and Sam always have a smile on their face and excited to see us”, says Mary.
Over the years of volunteering at Food Lifeline, this amazing group of volunteers has seen it all. Mary remembers her first session sorting enough produce to fill the size of a box truck. What seems like an impossible task becomes easy with friends. “It’s the camaraderie that keeps up coming back,” Terry says with a smile. “That and the strength that each of us have.”
Sitting around a table and enjoying coffee during the morning break, you see the A-Team women showing off their muscles. Everyone was in awe of Berta, a petite woman who lifted a 40 pound box over her head right before the break. That particular morning, the A-Team sorted more than 200 crates for distrubtion at Food Lifeline’s 275 hunger-relief partners. Bob, who also volunteers at a local food bank, reflects that volunteering at Food Lifeline helps him connect the dots of Western Washington’s hunger relief network. The food that gets sorted at Food Lifeline on Monday will be at a food bank on Tuesday and on someone’s dinner plate Tuesday night. “There’s a need for this food. Volunteering at Food Lifeline truly makes a difference”, Bob says. Everyone nods in agreement. And with that, Margaret notes the time. The break is over and it’s time to get back to the food.