It’s easy to feel the hope. In fact, it’s everywhere – in the labor, the voices, the smiles and even in the neat stacks of food that line the walls, ready to be taken home to Alamance County’s hungry. The whole atmosphere is warm and positive; a friendly buzz fills the air. It’s true, the energy and volunteer spirit is contagious here at Loaves & Fishes, and it’s nearly impossible not to catch the bug – just ask the volunteers.
Volunteers say that they began lending a helping hand for a number of reasons, but the relationships and the bonds they form while doing so is the reason they stay. Loaves & Fishes is a local independent food ministry situated in downtown Burlington, N.C., that provides groceries to hungry families in Alamance County as well as the five surrounding counties. They could not operate without their family of hundreds of dedicated volunteers. It’s clear from the friendly chatter and warm smiles that volunteering here is not only good for the community, but it also helps for the volunteers themselves.
“It gives you a good feeling to think that maybe you’ve been able to make a difference for some people who really needed some help this week, and we were able to lend a hand. That’s a good feeling,” said Ray Pollard, an older gentleman with square glasses and a kind smile who has been volunteering at Loaves & Fishes for a year and half.
Pollard worked as a minister for 45 years and has done a lot of volunteer work in the past, but he feels that Loaves & Fishes is different. He says that there’s more of a community feel here and he really believes in the organization.
“It’s special because it helps people who are our neighbors and folks that we feel are a part of this community…it’s not like we’re just giving to a cause – these are people. And we put the food in their cars and hear their responses,” said Pollard.
There’s no question that the spirit of goodwill is alive and well in Loaves & Fishes, but it’s the spirit of family that really serves as the glue for this organization and allows it to thrive. The volunteers here proudly call themselves a family and that love for each other is evident through the passion that they put into their weekly work.
“They’re great, I love ‘em. Best bunch of people in the world and that’s the truth,” says Gregg Sullivan about her fellow volunteers, who one time even bought her a cake on her birthday. Sullivan has been volunteering at various places her whole life, but holds a special place in her heart for Loaves & Fishes and all of its volunteers.
“We are very diverse, all of us that work, in age and you know, how we see things. But it’s wonderful to be with a group of people that the issue that we’re working for is bigger than our little differences. And I think that that is rare. But you do find that in this place…. I love the people. I really do,” says Sullivan with her trademark smile.
The volunteers are the spirit and personality of this organization, and their love for helping others binds them together and creates lifelong relationships. About 7000 individuals and families receive services from Loaves & Fishes each month, and all of that is made possible because of this inspiring group of people.
Says Aggie Owen, a Loaves & Fishes volunteer since the summertime, “Volunteering here has been a blessing to me. I receive joy from doing it and I encourage others to volunteer. I encourage others to volunteer in whatever their heart leads them, whatever they want to do.”