Across our centers and programs, we wanted to highlight some of our volunteers who have gone above and beyond in their dedication to service and empowering their communities. We were overwhelmed with the wonderful nominations we received from our Food Bank staff. While we hope everyone feels celebrated and appreciated, we want to recognize a few individuals for this year’s annual volunteer awards.
West Suburban Center – Geneva, IL
Mike Fonk, 2023 Volunteer Supervisor of the Year
Mike Fonk’s outstanding work ethic does not go unnoticed by the Production Team at the West Suburban Center. He regularly helps supervise volunteers in the protein room. With his teaching background, he is a patient and enthusiastic leader to volunteers. Mike (left in the photo) is appreciated by the volunteers and staff for his dedication to the Food Bank’s mission, overall kindness, and a desire to help this community be the best it can for all neighbors.
Kevin Schmidt, 2023 Volunteer Supervisor of the Year
The West Suburban Center team values Kevin’s collaborative spirit and leadership. Kevin (right in the photo) is a team player who is always coming in to fill in for shifts that need a Volunteer Supervisor. He saves the day regularly and is personable with the volunteers, utilizing everyone to their fullest potential. He is always ready to tackle any project with a positive attitude and exhibits care and compassion with others. The Production and Volunteer Teams greatly appreciate Kevin’s kind and dependable presence at the Food Bank.
Barb Bullock, 2023 Volunteer of the Year
Barb is extraordinarily valued by the Production Team at the West Suburban Center for her willingness and ability to help with any project. Whether she is supporting My Pantry Express, separating a mountain of bread trays, sorting groceries in the Evaluation Room, or organizing our non-food donations and singlehandedly adding 900 to 1,200 pounds to the shopping list on a weekly basis, Barb does everything with determination and a smile. She is dependable, hardworking, responsible, and willing to truly go above and beyond, whatever the task. From scraping stickers off tables and floors to scrubbing the produce carts, Barb is a quiet but special force. The Production and Volunteer Teams are thankful for her dedication and impact.
My Pantry Express Program
Ron Jarke, 2023 Volunteer of the Year
Ron has been a longtime volunteer of the Food Bank’s My Pantry Express program. Thanks to Ron’s observations and input, the Northern Illinois University distribution site has implemented new ways to improve the neighbor experience from produce storage to innovative protection of the distribution area from wind. To the team’s delight, he was more than willing to step into the position of site lead. Ron ensures neighbors and volunteers have a positive experience with Northern Illinois Food Bank and the My Pantry Express program. His leadership and commitment are crucial to the program, and the team appreciates his compassion and unwavering support.
Rick Green, 2023 Volunteer of the Year
Rick is an all-star volunteer. The My Pantry Express DoorDash shift at the West Suburban Center is just one of the several programs he volunteers with at the Food Bank. He is always willing to help new volunteers learn the ropes of DoorDash and provide any tips he has learned throughout his time. Rick is also always double-checking orders to ensure accuracy. Cement-filled buckets are now placed on the sidewalk in front of parking spots to prevent carts from rolling away on windy days thanks to Rick’s insight. Even if a shift is changed to a different time due to the weather, Rick still finds the time to help distribute the food. The My Pantry Express program is grateful to have Rick’s organization, leadership, and commitment.
South Suburban Center – Joliet, IL
Karen Kendall, 2023 Volunteer Supervisor of the Year
Karen started volunteering with the South Suburban Center prior to the pandemic. She would eventually lead a dedicated group of volunteers to work to sort the frozen meat Direct Connect donations every Tuesday without fail. During the Pandemic she attended nearly every Joliet Jr. College Pop-Up Market. Karen is a strong leader and a confident decision maker, and the team at the South Suburban Center is grateful to have Karen’s determination, skillset, and camaraderie.
Tom Pavlini, 2023 Volunteer Supervisor of the Year
Tom first volunteered at the South Suburban Center with the New Life Church of Bolingbrook. He enjoyed working with the staff and the volunteers so much that near the start of 2022, as he was looking for a new career, he began working almost every shift each week. Tom now comes in for the My Pantry Express DoorDash distributions and to help out with the Friday volunteer shift. In addition to being a hard worker, Tom is a gracious and friendly person. His strengths and qualities are felt and appreciated by his fellow volunteers and the team at the South Suburban Center.
Bill Bayci, 2023 Volunteer of the Year
Bill started volunteering prior to the pandemic with food sorting and packing shifts and mobile pantries. He was instrumental in forming the operations for the weekly My Pantry Express distributions. Additionally, he spends his Saturdays supporting the food distributions at the St. John’s Church pantry. He is highly organized and gets things done which is crucial to the mission of the Food Bank. Additionally, Bill is a kind and thoughtful individual that is cherished by the community at the South Suburban Center.
Jennifer Hulick, 2023 Volunteer of the Year
Jen began volunteering at the South Suburban Center during the pandemic and has remained a dedicated volunteer. She, too, was instrumental in the development of the My Pantry Express distributions. On Wednesdays, she and her daughter along with a small group of teens volunteer during distribution. She is energetic, fun, and thoughtful of others. In fact, she started a tradition of taking a selfie with the My Pantry Express volunteers after each week’s distribution. The South Suburban Center appreciates her positive and uplifting spirit.
Northwest Center – Rockford, IL
Don White, 2023 Volunteer of the Year
Don supports the Winnebago Community Market and My Pantry Express sites weekly on Thursday and Friday and has been volunteering with Northern Illinois Food Bank since December 2021. He brings a special energy and enthusiasm to every project and interaction. He makes a point to always check in with staff to see if there is anything additional that needs to be accomplished. The Northwest Center and Winnebago Community Market team members appreciate how Don engages with neighbors with this same energy and compassion. In addition to all the ways he is involved with Northern Illinois Food Bank, Don is mobile notary public, a pollster, and an American veteran.
Jerry Althof, 2023 Volunteer of the Year
The Northwest Center and Winnebago Community Market team members can count on Jerry’s willingness to help with anything that is needed. He volunteers four days each week, supporting DoorDash, Winnebago Community Market stocking and distribution, and food packing and sorting shifts, and he has been volunteering since February 2021. Jerry is very pleasant and compassionate with all neighbors and demonstrates leadership and patience with new volunteers. He is especially gentle and encouraging with vocational students every Tuesday afternoon.
North Suburban Center – Lake Forest, IL
Thomas & Helen Parkinson, 2023 Volunteer Supervisors of the Year
After spending a few minutes with Tom and Helen, one cannot help but experience the delight they are to be around. Their heart of service and depth of compassion is clearly felt. Always eager to help, they worked with agencies during open shopping days at the North Suburban Center’s previous location in Park City. They both jumped right into engaging with agencies and understanding the community in which they were serving. Working side by side, Tom’s efficiency in moving more products out, coupled with Helen’s gentleness ensured that agencies loved shopping for items with them.
In a brief time, they both went from inquiring about DoorDash to volunteering and then to Helen being trained on paperwork and labels. Soon, both came forward to be trained as Volunteer Supervisors. Tom and Helen completed the Electric Pallet Truck training and certification and now lead the DoorDash team on Wednesday from set-up to distribution. Northern Illinois Food Bank and the vast number of people they have inspired are grateful to have Tom and Helen serve in the capacities that they serve. They are two people with extraordinary talent and hearts to match.
Reinaldo J. Rebollar, 2023 Volunteer of the Year
Rino’s sense of humor, genuine humility, and easy-going attitude instantly resonated with the North Suburban Center team. His team mentality and work ethic were evident from his early volunteer days in Park City. Whenever there was a project to be done, he was always the first to offer assistance. Rino also engaged with youth from various programs and would encourage and quietly mentor these young men.
After agreeing to become a Volunteer Supervisor, he completed the training and immediately took on a much-needed role as a Volunteer Supervisor during the Saturday morning shift. Rino is always a calming presence and one to offer solutions and guidance amidst occasional challenges during volunteer shifts. His thoughtfulness to being truly committed in serving has been deeply appreciated by the North Suburban Center team members and volunteers. They are grateful for his heart of compassion and spirit of humility in serving the community.