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Volunteer Spotlight: Holly Johnson

Meet our volunteer accountant Holly Johnson! Holly uses her accounting skills to fulfill an important role in our organization and is a huge asset to us. Read on to learn how she got involved and how she keeps us on track financially. 

Did you know we can use all kinds of skills in our volunteers? If you’re interested in sharing yours with us, contact us today!

What is your hometown? 

Helena, Montana

What is your volunteer position?

Accountant

How long have you been volunteering at the Food Bank?

15 years

How did you end up in your current role?

Our church, Faith Lutheran in Wedgwood, has supported UDFB since the beginning, so I’ve always been aware of the organization. In 2008 I had a big birthday party and asked for donations to the food bank instead of gifts. People donated $4,000 and an SUV full of food! When we dropped it off, I asked about volunteering with our sons. We went together that summer. When they went back to school in the fall, I kept going to the Food Bank. I worked in the back room for the first 5 years. In 2013 I watched Joe working on a deposit one day and asked about their accounting function. It turned out that Joe was the both the Executive Director and the accountant! I offered to switch my role to accounting, which was a better use of my skills.

What are your main responsibilities?

I handle everything accounting and finance related. I devote one day a week to making and recording deposits, managing cash balances, managing staff credit cards, paying vendors, tracking contracts, paying the staff, working with investment advisors, preparing monthly financial statements for the finance committee and board of directors, and attending finance committee meetings. I am currently managing the annual financial audit in which an outside accounting firm audits the books, which is required by the City of Seattle contracts. My goal is to handle all the financial administration so the staff can concentrate on serving the clients. 

What is or was your profession? 

I am a retired CPA. I was fortunate to be able to leave the workforce after our sons were born, and gradually started volunteering, often in board treasurer roles at nonprofits.  

What drives you to volunteer at the Food Bank?

People gotta eat. It’s as simple as that. I believe that access to healthy food is a right of all people no matter their circumstances. Many years ago, I was tidying the shopping area at the old food bank in the basement of the University Christian Church and came across this To Do List, left by a very organized client:

It struck me that most of us don’t have to add 3. Eat to our daily lists. We take it for granted because we have money to purchase food, and a home with a kitchen to store and prepare food. But many of our neighbors do not have these basic necessities. Although my role is indirect, it frees up staff time and financial resources for serving our neighbors. 

Why should others volunteer?

Volunteering at the Food Bank is a great opportunity to meet people from lots of different backgrounds who also care about our neighbors. It’s also an opportunity to meet and help neighbors who suffer from food insecurity. It’s an opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of a shift for the hard work put in. Volunteering is like a high-five to humanity.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jud Richards

When did you start volunteering at the Food Bank?

I did volunteer orientation in October 2019 and started working in January or February of 2020, so a little over three years working Mondays and Thursdays each week. After only a month or two of volunteering the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown happened. During the pandemic I continued to volunteer two shifts a week like many other volunteers and we all kept it going, we had no disruption to food delivery. If the food bank was open, I was there. 

What are your typical volunteer responsibilities?

I help with grocery rescue, back of house, and packing supplies for families at Seattle Children’s hospital.

Grocery rescue is all about food security and reducing food waste. I rescue food from PCC in Green Lake regularly and when needed I will fill in for other volunteers or staff and pick up from Trader Joe’s in the U-District, among other retailers

It’s amazing to see how many pounds of groceries are donated from PCC and Trader Joe’s. It really helps to fill our shelves with additional produce, bread, frozen items, canned goods and more. I’ll pick up the food then we sort it, check expiration dates and stock it on the shelves. We also pick up baked goods from local bakeries like Madison Park Bakery, which is nice to offer shoppers locally baked items.

Most of our grocery partners take it very seriously, PCC and Trader Joe’s are both in that camp and they make sure to give us quality items.

For back of the house, I work on stocking the shelves, making sure they are full and ready for shoppers, I help keep our backstock full and organized, and sort produce and grocery rescue items. I’ll also operate the pallet jack as needed, and the cardboard baler to compact all the cardboard boxes and keep the space clean. 

Then once a week I work on grocery packs for Seattle Children’s hospital. We’ll provide several days’ worth of food for patients and families in long term care. They get a list of grocery items we offer and choose what they’d like for the week. We work to have culturally relevant foods as well as offering halal or kosher foods. We’ve served families of up to 8 people with these packs and it can go a long way to help stretch grocery budgets while their children are receiving care at the hospital. 

What is your favorite part about volunteering? 

It’s the people – the volunteers and the customers. The people I’ve met here have great stories and interesting backgrounds, and it makes returning twice a week something I look forward to. 

My background is in tech which is a privileged community of people and I really enjoy the diversity at the Food Bank. I also feel compelled to give back and help others, it’s a good feeling and a big part of why I personally keep volunteering.

Why should others volunteer at the Food Bank? 

Food security is critical these days with a lot of unmet needs in our community. We can all do our part to ensure those needs are met as best we can, and you get to meet some great people along the way. 

What else do you want people to know about the Food Bank community? 

The food bank is really a hub for other services that the city offers, it’s focused on food security but there are vaccine drives, access to literature about available resources, an office phone that customers can use to make calls to family or check in with local agencies. The Food Bank is doing everything within its means to help people. They work hard in good faith and make every attempt to meet someone’s needs. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Jess Levine 

Meet Jess Levine, aka the Mayor of the University District Food Bank, who has been consistently volunteering with us for ten years!! He finds so much joy and purpose in volunteering with the Food Bank that he bookends his weeks with a Monday and Friday shift, noting that he’s one of the few people who really looks forward to Mondays. And we look forward to having him!

When did you start volunteering at the Food Bank?

December of 2013 was my first time volunteering here. When I started, we were in the former food bank space in the church basement, a very small space so we all worked close together. When the new space opened, we were so spread out it was strange at first but quickly we came to love how much room we had to get our work done.

Volunteer work has always been a big part of my life. I came to Seattle 25 years ago from Chicago and was involved in a school for children in homeless situations, then I was involved with CASA for seven years which was very rewarding, same as the food bank. I have a background in education working with intercity kids in Chicago and when I was no longer engaged in that work it was important for me to continue serving the community. 

What are your typical volunteer responsibilities?

I work in all kinds of roles, whatever needs to be done that day. I’ll work in the back, help with sorting produce, dry goods and eggs, unload the truck, make PB&Js… I don’t care what it is I’ll just chat people up and have a good time doing the work.

I love meeting new people. Any time I see a new volunteer I greet them and welcome them in. People joke that I’m the Mayor of the Food Bank because I love talking and saying hello to everyone.   

What is your favorite part about volunteering? 

I love the people and the community. There’s a crew of volunteers on Mondays who have been doing this for a long time. Pam, Betsey and I have all become close friends (we’ve been nicknamed PB&J) and we’ll socialize after our shifts, my wife has met so many new friends through my time volunteering here!  

There are many more women than men volunteering at the Food Bank, and I don’t know why that is but we need more men to step up and volunteer their time!

Why should others volunteer at the Food Bank? 

I read an article recently and it said at the end: volunteering is good for the soul. I couldn’t agree more. I personally get so much out of volunteering and being of service to others. If we’re not here to help each other why are we here at all? 

I’ve had volunteer work in my life for as long as I can remember, and it’s always given me purpose. I went to an integrated grammar school on the southside of Chicago in the 1950s. We were middle class and I saw firsthand the disparities in equity between me and my friends and it didn’t feel right to me. My parents were philanthropic and socially responsible so helping people just came naturally. 

What else do you want people to know about the Food Bank community? 

There’s a real sense of collegiality here, it’s not hierarchical. They make you feel at home and the staff is very responsive and supportive. I’ve done volunteer work for 37 years and this is as good as it gets. The shoppers are so appreciative, I’ve gotten to know so many of them and look forward to chatting.

I also don’t burn out here, the work is so important. Food is the most essential basic need, and if we aren’t capable of tackling that issue then we’re in trouble. Food scarcity is something we have the capacity to address if we work together.