For this month’s Volunteer Spotlight, Marketing and Communications Strategist David Jefferson spoke with Greg Heberlein, a dedicated Food Lifeline volunteer for almost two decades! Greg comes into the office weekly and most often volunteers with our Agency Relations and Retail and Food Purchasing (RAFP) teams. In his time volunteering, it is estimated that Greg has volunteered at least 1,000 hours. He’s a retired Seattle Times journalist, avid Mariners fan, Disney aficionado, and world traveler.
DJ: Hi, Greg! Thanks so much for speaking with me today! I’m super excited to learn more about your journey as a volunteer. First things first, how long have you been a volunteer here at Food Lifeline?
GH: I’d say about 16 years! I started way back in 2007, and I’ve kept coming back to volunteer for so long because it brings me so much joy to be able to help others.
DJ: Sixteen years is so impressive! I’m curious…what made you interested in volunteering?
GH: There was another national food provider called Taste the Nation that would hold events across the nation where they would put on these massive tasting events featuring local chefs. For about three or four years I was the Treasurer and over time, some of our core volunteers started to run out of gas and dropped out. In 2007, the last Taste the Nation event was held in Seattle. I happened to meet a young woman who was working at Food Lifeline at the time, and she brought up the idea of volunteering at Food Lifeline, and I was immediately interested. I said yes, and I’ve been volunteering ever since!
DJ: Wow!! Crazy how things work out sometimes, huh? Glad you were able to make that connection which has resulted in you being here for so long. Since coming on to volunteer, what are some of your favorite tasks that you’ve worked on?
GH: Well, I’ve done just about everything. I’ve processed checks, I’ve done database work with checks, I’ve done enveloping—I can do hundreds and hundreds of envelopes in just a couple of hours. I kind of think that I have a title in that respect. One project I worked on back when Food Lifeline was in Shoreline was a massive receipt digitization project. They thought it would be a two-month project, but it ended up taking 18 months! The last five years or so I’ve been with the RAFP team where I do some laminating, I make buttons, I wrap receipts, and sometimes I call partner agencies who haven’t submitted necessary paperwork. COVID definitely impacted some of these tasks as things have changed due to the pandemic. I also did some work with the Food Resources team in which I would basically prepare certificates for drivers for their pickups to various grocery stores. Now, I’m working on a small project that requires me to come in every week. I’m just wrapping packages of receipts, but I love it so much because I don’t have to think about it. I just come in and do it!
DJ: You’ve been with us since our days in Shoreline. What have you noticed about our evolution as an organization in all that time?
GH: Shoreline was small…it was jampacked in there! A facility like the Hunger Solution Center was definitely needed so that folks could work in a better work environment. Since Shoreline was so small though, you would be so much closer to people. It was a little bit easier to see the same faces and get to know folks and whatnot. You don’t get to know as many folks here because this place is so huge, but Food Lifeline is able to do so much more great work for communities around Western Washington. And you know, I still do my part in trying to chat with staff members and getting to know them and say hello to folks when I see them here. It’s really just nice to see Food Lifeline be able to do more and more great work.
DJ: What has kept your interest in volunteering for all of these years? Why come back year after year?
GH: Well, I enjoy it. When you volunteer, the people you’re volunteering for appreciate the effort. I tend to think that as the volunteer myself, I get more out of it. I feel like I’m really making an impact on people.
DJ: What would you say to someone who isn’t sure about coming in to volunteer?
GH: The people here are great, and the work is so rewarding. You come into the Hunger Solution Center, and you know almost immediately that you’re doing work that is going to help people. You’re doing work that is important and necessary! To be here at sort of the wholesaler of food bank food…I just really like it. I’d tell folks they have the chance to volunteer at the source of food for over 350 agencies and hundreds and hundreds of communities. The impact here is simply amazing.
I’ve been here so long, now that I think about it. I kind of feel like I’m one of the longest employees at Food Lifeline…hahaha. I really have loved every minute of it, and I am so glad that I have this opportunity.
DJ: Well, Greg, I think that’s the perfect way to end this. We’re going to have to get you a badge of honor or something to commemorate your time here with us. I’m so grateful to have shared this space with you today, and I want to thank you so much for speaking with me today.
GH: Thanks so much for the conversation, David.