Each year, the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County utilizes hundreds of volunteers from all over the county to help battle hunger in their community.
Among those hundreds of volunteers is a group of senior citizens from the Arroyo Grande Care Center’s service-therapy program.
“It’s a unique way of volunteering,” said Food Bank Chief Operating Officer Wendy Lewis. “These residents are able to get physical activity and also help out the community.”
The senior volunteers are in the program as a way to recover from a serious illness or an accident that they suffered. Once a month, the group gets together to sort and bag food that will later be distributed to people onsite.
“It gives them a reason to get up,” Melissa Myers, Arroyo Grande Care Center Activities Manager. “They know that they need to get up and help. It gives them a purpose.”
The process works like an assembly line, with an item of food in front of each senior and the bag goes around the table as each one places their item in the bag.
“They take one of each item and put it in the grocery bag and pass it on down the line,” said senior volunteer Donna Hillman.
The Arroyo Grande Care Center, believes that the activity they call service-based therapy is excellent for the body, mind, and soul.
“It’s nice to participate in and it’s nice to be able to be the one to receive it and be grateful,” sand Hillman.
Former Arroyo Grande mayor and volunteer Pete Dougall has been a resident at the care center since July and believes the program works well because it allows seniors to impact their community in a positive manner.
“It’s nice to see people’s faces going home with sacks of food they couldn’t get,” said Dougall.
One volunteer, Andrea Prandini, has been volunteering at the food bank since her mother became a patient of the care center for over two years.
“She loved Food Bank,” said Prandini. “She loved giving back to the community. We came with her every month and we really, really enjoyed it.”
Andrea now visits the food bank every month and assists the seniors with the task of cans, jars, and other nonperishables into grocery bags.
“We have fun,” Prandini said. “We play music, sometimes we dance. Everybody works together as a team and it’s just a great time.”
After bagging, the food is taken outside where the seniors help distribute the bags to people in need.
“Households will be able to take it home, feed their family,” said Lewis. “It’s great stable, healthy food and it just means so much making sure everyone has a healthy meal.”