Skip to main content

Volunteer Spotlight: Recognizing Our Volunteer Production Team

By April 17, 2024No Comments

Photo: The Volunteer Production Team (l-r)—Samuel Butay, Hanh Nguyen, Jennifer (Jenji) Gumiran, Tricia LaGrua, Harmoni Bland, Kennedy Stomps, Lee Elder, Ellie Chang, Kevin Fisher, and Casey Crane.

For this month’s Volunteer Spotlight, we’re recognizing our amazing Volunteer Production Team as part of Volunteer Recognition Month. The Volunteer Production Team is one of the teams the public works most closely with, building community and fostering connections that can lead volunteers to even bigger volunteer roles in the organization. Volunteer Production Team members are incredibly dynamic, with a wide-ranging skillset including the ability to lead and instruct large groups of people, specialized inventory and food safety knowledge, and the physical ability to move huge quantities of food and maneuver a forklift.

Casey Crane, Director of Food Resources and Volunteer Production, says “The VP team posses so many skills there are almost to many to count! We have inventory and food quality specialized skills, along with being familiar with all things Food Lifeline and the root causes that lead to food insecurity in our community. The team members are truly jacks-of-all trades!”

Each day, members of the team assess the quality and quantity of the current inventory, set up the sort and repack area to accommodate the product being sorted that day, and then lead volunteers through the session. There are a lot of technical moving parts to their jobsin the morning, they might be setting up to sort potatoes, and in the afternoon, macaroni. The quantity of product and sizes of groups are always shifting, and volunteer safety and food safety are top of mind for the team.

But they also bring a lot of fun to the volunteer experience: music and dancing are a big part of the sessions, and the interactions with volunteers bring a lot of energy. Kevin Fisher recalls a favorite memory of girl so excited to volunteer that she came in and volunteered on her 10th birthdaythe day she finally reached the age limit to volunteer. Her group of volunteers sang Happy Birthday to her and they pulled some ice cream out of the freezer to celebrate. They’ve formed close relationships with many of the volunteers over the years, and there are special guest volunteers like the Huskies, Sean Kemp, and the Kraken Mascot Buoy. No two days are ever alike on sort and repack floor.

The team sat down with us to share what they love about their role working with volunteers:


Casey Crane

Director of Food Resources and Volunteer Production

“I love the opportunity to work with food and so many members of community to further the understanding and support of hunger solutions and the root causes that lead to food and nutrition insecurity.”

“[I’m impressed by] the ability of the team to meaningfully engage with the countless volunteers we see while ensuring the food that is sorted is of high quality and safe for our community. The impact the team makes through their work is profound, and I’m proud to be a part of such an amazing team!”

Ellie Chang

Ellie Chang“My favorite part of my job is getting to work directly with the community members. I think getting to see the actual people that were serving is really awesome and the volunteers that come in are really excited too. I also like getting to see the whole cycle and flow of how the food comes in and how it gets processed, and how it leaves…Just feeding off of the energy of the volunteers come in is pretty amazing. Everyone who comes in to volunteer is here because they want to be here they want to help out and because they believe in our cause. That’s amazing because you’re not just relying on your own energy each day – you have this advantage where you can feed off the energy of the volunteers which is always so positive and that makes every day a lot easier and feels less like work than what most people experience in their work day.”

Hanh Nguyen

“I get excited about this job because even as I work here I’m also giving people a hand and I like to help people…  I’m so lucky I have enough to eat and a place to stay and I have a little bit of money to spend but a lot of people don’t have that, a lot of people don’t have that privilege. When I grew up in Vietnam I didn’t have enough food to eat or clothes to wear. When I came to the US in 1980, I wanted to support my country and give back. There are a lot of people hungry in Western Washington. There’s something in me that I like to help people out.”




Harmoni Bland

“My absolutely favorite part about my job is working with volunteers. I get to meet so many new people every single day. We have a lot of returning volunteers and I’m able to talk to them and learn about them and what they think about the mission that we have here. It’s so interesting to get to know each individual.”

“ I really enjoyed it when the Huskies football team came in…For me to be able to work with them, and then they go off and win the playoff and the championship it was amazing. I thought, I remember when I had you here sorting potatoes! It’s pretty awesome. And from there they want to come back and they will bring their families sand friends and continue that work outside in the community that they’re with so it’s really good to be able to work with all types of people. It’s an extra perk when you get to work with superstars for sure!”

“Volunteers are the heart of what we do and we can’t do anything without them. So it’s really important that they continue to come in and then give and help and send everybody our way.”

Kennedy Stomps

“What gets me excited about my job is that there’s always something new to learn, whether it’s food safety, how we can be more efficient in our operations, learning how to use a new piece of equipment, whether it’s something like our order picker that goes up super high or our rider jack that goes super fast. There’s always something new to learn here, and we have some people who have been her 35 years so there’s lots of knowledge to draw on.”

“My favorite memory is when the team from the Kraken office came here and of course they brought their mascot Buoy. I thought Buoy was just here for moral support, but you better know Buoy gloved up and Buoy was packing parsnips! That was my favorite day—we had the Kraken in here, we had all that music going, and we had Buoy backing me up carrying those cases or parsnips all over the place.”

Kevin Fisher

“What I love about this job is the people I get to work with-both all the employees of Food Lifeline of course but especially my team. I think we’re all passionate about what we do. Volunteers are the best people in Seattle. They’re voluntarily giving up their time to do some good and I get to work with them everyday. It’s like the best! And you can go home feeling good about what you do.”

“We play music all day long and sometimes we do a little dancing. But we work hard too and we’re really proud of what we produce. We take seriously the productivity and the smooth operation and of course safety, and food safety as well. I feel like it’s my equal responsibility to be productive and  get work done as well as make sure the volunteers have the best experience possible so that they’ll spread the word they’ll come back. Our mission is dependent on volunteers We can’t we can’t do our mission without volunteers so we need them to come back spread the word and bring more people.”

“I just think it’s the best best job ever- it’s my ideal job.”

Lee Elder

“My favorite part about my job is it combines the physical aspect of moving food from one place to another and also getting to interact with people. It’s really about the relationships that I form with people and that other folks are forming with each other. It’s very relationship-based. I love the combination of skills that I use –doing physical work together while building relationships…It’s really meaningful to me to be in spaces with people who are really opting in and I feel like volunteers here are really opting into the experience and that’s really great to be around.”


Tricia LaGrua

“My favorite part of my job is all the people. I work with a lot of awesome people and I love meeting with volunteers. The volunteers are all incredible people. And I love just being able to laugh with volunteers. It’s really, really fun.”

The Volunteer Production Team. Back row standing (l-r): Samuel Butay, Lee Elder, Harmoni Bland, Ellie Chang, Kevin Fisher, Tricia LaGrua. Seated on couch (l-r): Jennifer (Jenji) Gumiran, Casey Crane, Hanh Nguyen. Seated on floor: Kennedy Stomps.