From a very young age, we’re constantly asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some children already know they want to become doctors, while others aspire to become famous singers. There are also some people who go through childhood without having one defining vision for their ideal career, as their dreams change with age and experience.
At Northern Illinois Food Bank, we’ve always known what we aspire to be “when we grow up,” and we know what our ultimate dream is: we want to give back to and enrich our community, support those who need a helping hand, and above all else, be the solution to hunger for our neighbors in need across Northern Illinois.
But without one very important group of people, we would not be able to achieve these dreams — our employees.
In honor of National Employee Appreciation Day on March 10, we gave a very special thank you to all our Food Bank staff members. Day in and day out, our staff works with feeding sites and partners, they travel all over our 13 counties to deliver and rescue food, they encourage and create opportunities for volunteers and donors to give back to the community, and most of all, they dedicate and share their gifts, skills, time, and passion to helping feed our hungry neighbors. Their hard work and dedication to our mission is astounding and inspiring.
While some staff members are just joining our fight against hunger, many more have been helping hungry neighbors for years. But a common thread amongst all our employees, new and veteran alike, is that together, we have achieved incredible things – like being able to serve 71,500 neighbors every week and a total of 62.5 million meals to hungry neighbors last year alone.
Our employees make special memories here as they work to ensure every hungry neighbor has access to every meal, every day. Here are just a few stories from members of our staff:
Marianne Nelson, who has been a truck driver with the Food Bank for more than 10 years, said her favorite memory was from a mobile food pantry years ago. A mother arrived at the mobile pantry with her daughter, whose birthday happened to be that day. Marianne was delighted to be able to give a birthday cake to the mother and daughter, knowing that the family would not have otherwise been able to afford a cake to celebrate. Making that little girl’s birthday a bit more special with the Food Bank’s help touched Marianne’s heart and was a moment she’ll always remember.
Gary Knuth joined Northern Illinois Food Bank in 2008 and recently retired after nearly nine years as Manager of Food Partner Relations. He knew our employees are here because of moments like Marianne’s and others’ in which we are reminded of the ways our work gives back. When asked to explain what drew him to working at the Food Bank, Gary replied, “I always said, ‘At 55, go do something other than corporate life…give a little back.'”
Heather Geelhoed from Human Resources said she was looking to work for a place that genuinely wanted to help people, and that is just what found she found when she started working at the Food Bank. In her first week, she saw everyone’s dedication and sincerity in their desire to do great work for a great cause.
We’re grateful for staff members like Marianne, Gary, Heather, and all our employees who so proudly demonstrate their passion for giving back to the community and putting our hungry neighbors first day in and day out.
Because we know many our neighbors are still finding themselves making tough choices (such as putting food on the table or paying bills like rent, utilities, or for medicine) there is still much more work to be done as we strive to solve hunger across Northern Illinois. And because Northern Illinois Food Bank means hope for more than 71,500 people each week who face hunger every day, we are always looking for passionate, talented people ready to help us solve hunger to join our team.
If that sounds like you, and you’re looking to work for a great cause that impacts your local community, check out and apply to available positions on our team! Because together, we can solve hunger.