The Value of a Volunteer

Pictured: Margaret, second from the left

By guest blogger Diana Stapleton, Weston Area Emergency SupportMargaret Roberts has been a volunteer at the Weston Area Emergency Support, a west-end Toronto food bank, for over 20 years. Like many volunteers, she started giving her time after she retired. Her activities and responsibilities started out small and blossomed over the years, to the point that she is now working close to full time.

Margaret started out as Board Treasurer. Now, you’ll find her at the food bank on Mondays helping receive donations and Tuesdays helping distribute food. On Wednesdays she helps restock shelves and Thursdays she repacks bulk products.  Fridays she arrives to clean up after the day’s food distribution.  Margaret is the face of the food bank for most of the community.  Her energy is legendary, and her kindness and compassion are appreciated by all who have the privilege of meeting her.

Volunteering means different things to different people. Margaret, for instance, initially got involved because she had free time she wanted to fill and thought since the food bank was close to her apartment, it might be a good thing to do. Soon, she came to realize that the need in her community was significant. She also understood that her work was useful and making an impact. Her previous career experience translated very well into her volunteer “jobs”. She was excellent with numbers, so being the treasurer made sense. Her attention to detail helped her take on the inventory and food ordering to keep the shelves full.

Working on the frontlines at a food bank can sometimes be difficult. Some of the people who need food assistance struggle with mental health or addiction issues. At times, they can be upset and even combative. A gentle hand and kind words are needed to deescalate these situations and luckily, Margaret is a master of keeping a positive attitude while dealing with people in distress. She’s a great role model and mentor for new volunteers and her empathy for the clients makes her everyone’s favourite, familiar face.

This is only one volunteer story.  Many organizations have their own “Margaret”. These are people who believe deeply in the cause they support and give countless hours to help their organization thrive. Food banks simply could not exist without people like her and to those silent champions, doing the everyday work necessary to help those in need, we thank you.