Cook warm meals. Put away fresh produce in the market. Hand out food to the clients. Wash pill bottles. Walk through the double doors of the Hunger and Health Coalition on any given day and you’ll be met by dozens of volunteers, working day in and day out to ensure that all who are fighting food insecurity, do so with a helping hand.
“Every corner of our organization is touched by the hands of our volunteers.
From the kitchen to our market and into the pharmacy, everything we are able to do is because of their tireless efforts"-
Executive Director, Elizabeth Young.
Considered the heartbeat of the Hunger and Health Coalition, volunteers help maintain the daily operations of our mission. From cooking meals to counting pills for medications, volunteers are absolutely vital to what we do on a daily basis. Terri Niederhammer, Volunteer Coordinator, knows just how significant these folks are. “When I first started here, we only had seven paid staff members, we kept our doors open because of the help from volunteers. Staff are able to run reports, supervise interns, complete grants, order food all because of the wonderful people who volunteer their time to us”. Volunteers are able to donate more than just their time explains Terri, they donate their skills. “Our volunteers allow us to think outside the box to help navigate troubles or issues.”
Over the years, hundreds of community members have walked up to the Hunger and Health Coalition looking to donate an hour or two of their time. For some, they volunteered once and never stopped. Teddy Watson has been volunteering with the Hunger and Health Coalition for 15 years. “One day I walked up to the doors just looking for a hot meal, they asked if I could help make food boxes and I never stopped coming back” stated Teddy. Today, Teddy is a familiar face around town. Known for his love of motorcycles, you can usually catch him riding in the passenger seat of the Hunger and Health Coalition truck helping to pick up donations from organizations and grocery stores around town. But for Teddy, it means much more. “To me this is everything. I love going out in the community, seeing people, brightening their day and helping to bring food to the people who need it.”
A volunteer's perspective on their time at the Hunger and Health Coalition.
For others, the Hunger and Health Coalition is their home, away from home. “It was the first time in a long time I was able to find a community. I’ve actually been able to put down roots here and now I’m able to help my neighbors, I feel closer to home” explains Kelsey Kramer, a rising Wake Forest PA student studying here in Boone. Originally from Wiscousin, Kelsey knows just how important the work of the HHC is. “As a future provider I know how important these medicines are, I know how important fresh, healthy foods are. Everyone deserves access to those; everyone deserves blood pressure medicine and fruits and vegetables.”
For some, volunteering is a chance to educate those in the community about just how food insecure Watauga County is. Volunteer Deborah Young says “I would guess not many people know just how many people are actually hungry here in Watauga. Volunteer’s time or food makes a huge difference to not only this organization, but the community.” Appalachian State University Senior Sophie Osada utilizes her time here at the Hunger and Health Coalition to show compassion to not only the clients but her own community. “Volunteering helps me to further think of how my own actions impact the people around me. Today, I stress empathy to everyone I come in contact with”. Education is a large piece of the work the Hunger and Health Coalition does. Not many people know that 1 in 4 children are food insecure here in Watauga County while more than 13% of the total population is battling food insecurity.
“If there were one thing I would want people to know about food insecurity; it is alive and well”-Food Recovery Kitchen Volunteer, Susie Greene.
Susie was looking for ways to get “out of her bubble” and felt that the HHC was the right fit. “This work helps me to feel like I am making a direct impact on the people who need it most”.
Frank Pletz, Mobile Delivery Volunteer Driver couldn’t agree more. “Food insecurity is out there. People need help, and as a community, we should be helping more.” For Frank, volunteering also gives him a chance to connect with his community members on a more personal level. “Whenever I deliver the food, it gives me a chance to have a conversation with someone I might not otherwise have the chance to meet. Just to say hello and brighten their day.”A Simple Gesture driver Margaret Newbold not only loves taking in the spectacular views of the High Country as she goes around and picks up food from donors, but she also has learned about so much of the High Country. “There is so much disparity we all need to realize and get out of our own bubble a little more often” exclaimed Margaret.
Working in the food recovery kitchen, volunteer Terri Hill got to see first- hand how just how much healthy food can uplift our community. “People are so appreciative, just so thankful for anything and everything you give them” mentions Terri. “Not only are they appreciative, but their face lights up with the biggest smile when you hand them food they can give to their family or loved ones”
Food is a universal language; we all can understand. We show love through food. Gratitude. We gather around food to celebrate. It is a connection. When we help to feed our neighbors in need, we connect, something Candace Kelling Salzer was searching for all along. “For me, it was about connection” she exclaims, fighting back tears. “Most people want that feeling of connection, and fulfillment in any way that feels right for them. This is my passion, this is what keeps me going, helping people and finding that connection.”Candace began as a volunteer in the Food Recovery Kitchen, she enjoyed her time so much she now works as the Mobile Delivery Program Coordinator helping to bring food to hundreds of kids and clients around the High Country.
Some volunteer for the fulfillment, others to educate. Some to see the faces of our clients. While some, are looking to connect, to put down roots. Whether you volunteer with the Hunger and Health Coalition for an hour or three your impact on the lives of our clients creates a lasting change, one that can be seen for years to come and for that we would like to say:
From all of us here at the Hunger and Health Coalition,
"To me, this is everything"
15 year HHC Volunteer,