April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and because our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization, this celebratory month isn’t taken lightly here at Northern Illinois Food Bank! Last year alone, we welcomed more than 31,000 unique volunteers through our doors. Altogether, our awesome volunteers donated more than 155,000 hours of their time to helping solve hunger. That equates to 74 additional full-time staff, which is like increasing our staff size by half!
What better way to celebrate our volunteers than by featuring one of our longest-serving regulars here at Northern Illinois Food Bank, Vi Nelson.
A volunteer with the Food Bank for 20 years, Vi has seemingly been here through it all – wearing many hats as a volunteer at our location in St. Charles before the Center in Geneva was built. She continues to serve as a dedicated volunteer every week on Monday mornings (with a group affectionately referred to as the M&Ms). Over the years, Vi has done everything from helping with inventory and sorting food, to packing holiday meal boxes, to working on the food processing line, and more.
We recently sat down with Vi to learn more about what inspired her to get involved with the Food Bank, as well as what keeps her coming back after all these years.
Vi’s first volunteer experience at the Food Bank was with her church group, Fox Valley Presbyterian. She had recently retired from a long career in which she held a variety of jobs over the years – including credit manager at a pharmacy, substitute school secretary, a Macy’s retail associate, and several years as a stay-at-home mom.
Following her volunteer shift that first day, Vi realized the Food Bank was just the thing she’d been looking for. “I had been so blessed and had wanted to give back in some way,” she says. “This was the perfect answer.”
She decided to continue volunteering on her own during the Monday morning shift each week, which to this day consists of a group of regular, weekly volunteers like Vi. “The M&Ms group was always the same small group, though it has changed and grown somewhat over the years,” she explains. “But of course we all enjoyed working together then, and working on the [processing] line now – we still enjoy what we do.”
Vi says that one of her favorite things about her role is seeing all the different groups who come together to volunteer. She recalls how exciting it was when the Food Bank opened the West Suburban Center in Geneva in 2011.
“This is such a wonderful new building,” she says. “And it has been great to see the growth, change, and accomplishments that have come since.”
One thing is certain – without our volunteer force, we simply would not be able to provide 62.5 million meals every year (that’s over 170,000 meals EVERY DAY!) to our hungry neighbors across Northern Illinois.
No matter how much time you spend with us, or how you help while you’re here, everything you do makes a real difference in the lives of our hungry neighbors. We are so grateful for your continued support!
To see current and upcoming volunteer opportunities and to register for volunteer shifts, click here.
For the third year, 20-year Food Bank volunteer Vi Nelson (third from the left) participated in the Food Bank’s annual Foodie 5K in Wheaton on April 1, 2017 along with her daughter (middle) and other members of the Monday Morning (M&Ms) volunteer group.