United Way Volunteering 101

Ashley Nicoson (right) and her engagement team plan and lead volunteer events across the city.

Chicagoans are deeply committed to the city we call “home.” We are people who care about our neighbors and want to see everybody thrive. There’s no shortage of desire to give back or opportunities to get involved, but it can be difficult to know where to start.

At United Way, we help to connect volunteers to the greatest needs in our community. Together, we’re making a difference in everyday ways, like cleaning up schools, assisting our neighbors with tax prep, mentoring the next generation and more!

In honor of National Volunteer Month, our Corporate Liaison Ashley Nicoson sat down with our Digital Content Specialist, Carley Mossbrook, to discuss why United Way of Metro Chicago is the perfect one-stop shop for volunteers who want to get involved.

Carley Mossbrook: Ashley, a lot of people may be interested in volunteering but feel like they aren’t qualified or don’t have the right skills if the project is drastically different from their day-to-day work. Are there any qualities or experiences needed to be a volunteer?

Volunteers at ITW’s 5th Annual Day of Action landscaped and painted fences at a local preschool, led outdoor sports for summer campers and packed care kits for new moms.

Ashley Nicoson: Anyone and everyone should volunteer! While we certainly see a need for skill-based volunteering, anyone can plug into local needs with a bit of research into their own interests and what is happening at agencies in their community. Volunteering is a great way to build a new hobby or continue building an established interest.

CM: Exactly. And it can be really fun! But sometimes it’s hard to gauge whether you’re making an impact through volunteer service. Can you explain why volunteers are such a vital part of United Way of Metro Chicago’s work?

AN: As we examine what community engagement means, volunteers are a crucial part in addressing needs and driving change that an agency or neighbor has. United Way is able to connect these needs with volunteers that share their time, serving as a link between resources and opportunities.

CM: Sounds like United Way is a volunteer matchmaker. I know we do a lot of that connection for our corporate partners, in particular. Why do you think corporate philanthropy and having the opportunity to volunteer through their companies is important to employees?

AN: We find that our partners value the chance to invest to in community by rolling up their sleeves and addressing a genuine need. This allows them to not only work alongside their coworkers and teammates but also pair their professional work with their personal values.

AT&T employees joined forces to make improvements at Primo Center for Women & Children in January.

CM: But employees aren’t the only ones who have something to gain from volunteerism, right? How do employers benefit from providing volunteer opportunities to their team?

AN: Volunteering provides an immense opportunity to both strengthen teams and understand United Way’s impact firsthand. A team volunteer project breathes life into philanthropic goals a company has and provides a different perspective on what it means to work together towards building stronger communities.

CM: Makes sense. I’ve seen volunteers create great memories together. That’s team-building at its finest. Now that we have the lowdown on volunteerism, where can community members and employees find opportunities to volunteer with United Way of Metro Chicago?

AN: Anyone who is interested in joining our fight to build stronger neighborhoods can visit our volunteer Opportunity Calendar to get involved! 


The Changemakers: Corporate Volunteers Strengthen Community Ties

In a large warehouse just south of McKinley Park, Anthony Lighthall and his colleagues at National Futures Association (NFA) prepared for a busy day of community service.  

Outside of his human resources role at NFA, Anthony leads the company’s workplace campaign. He encourages his fellow employees to support United Way and facilitates service projects that advance our mission to build stronger neighborhoods.

“I’m happy to be partnering with United Way and I’m very excited to spearhead the campaign and be a leader this year,” Anthony said. “United Way really helps out in communities. It’s very rewarding to be a part of.”

Hosting a Day of Service is one of the many ways our corporate partners, like Anthony and NFA, can get out into the community and support their neighbors. Some projects assist United Way partners with an ongoing need, such as organizing baby goods and snacks into kits for new moms or kids in after-school programs. Others address a specific need, like cleaning up a playground or painting a school.

For NFA’s Day of Service in late March, Anthony led a project with Catholic Charities. For the entire day, he and his team sorted and packed bags of food and household goods to be delivered to low-income seniors living in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh foods and higher rates of hunger.

With these goods, these neighbors can rest assured that they know where their next meal is coming from. Thanks to the support of volunteers, they won’t have to stress about traveling to a food pantry or going hungry for the week.

Anthony’s strong desire to give back isn’t the only quality that made him a great fit to lead this project and NFA’s fundraising campaign. Along with his upbeat personality, Anthony is inspired to bring neighbors together. He recognizes how strong bonds between community members can spur long-term change – the essence of our mission here at United Way.

“We all have busy lives,” he said. “We go to work and come home. But getting to know the people next door or in your neighborhood is very important. We need to build that trust and help each other out.”  

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Looking for opportunities for your company to invest in change? Check out our Opportunity Calendar! When we all participate, we can help ensure that our neighbors have the tools they need to reach their full potential.


Tax Assistance Gives Workers Ladder Up to a Brighter Future

Our partners are currently recruiting volunteers to assist with the 2019 tax season. Help your neighbors pocket their hard-earned money!

While we all hope that the worst of the winter weather will soon dissipate, another, often more dreaded, season of the year is upon us — tax season.

For most people, the process of filing taxes is unanimously unenjoyable. But for others, it’s unaffordable or unnecessarily difficult. Many low-income households struggle to receive the maximum refund on their taxes and are often expected to pay exorbitant fees to a commercial accountant.

To help ease the process and save industrious individuals their hard-earned money, our partners at Ladder Up and the Center for Economic Progress host free tax assistance at 28 locations across the city from early February through April 15.

“[Our volunteer tax preparers] are helping people secure the money they need to meet their basic needs and save for the future,” said Christine Cheng, executive director of Ladder Up. “Even for those who don’t get refunds, we don’t want you to even pay someone to do the returns that you may owe money on. That’s money you should keep in your pocket.”

Going beyond the tax day need

In 1994, Ladder Up’s first year of tax prep, volunteer tax preparers served 120 families in the Chicago region. Since then, its service has grown exponentially, expanding across the metro region and to Springfield.

If eligible, a volunteer will help them prepare their local, state and federal taxes using the government’s’ e-filing system. Then, their return is reviewed by another volunteer to resolve any errors.

In addition to the tax prep services, LadderUp volunteers will also help clients check their credit report and access a feeless prepaid banking card or savings account to deposit their tax refund.

“We don’t want to offer just tax prep because there’s a big opportunity at tax time when people are receiving large sums of money,” Christine said. “We also want to introduce the idea that if you want to do something else, like put that away if you’re able to, we can help facilitate that.”

Local mom put savings to good use

For Charlesa Williams of Englewood, accessing free tax assistance has allowed her to use the money she would’ve spent on an accountant to pay for household bills and save for a family vacation.

Charlesa, a mother of one and non-profit employee, received word of the program from a flyer at her local Women, Infants & Children (WIC) center. Since, she’s visited Ladder Up’s tax sites for the last four years.

“I love the program,” Charlesa said. “[The volunteers] take the time to answer your questions and want you to understand everything. They take it step-by-step.”

The next day, she planned to rise early to be one of the first clients of the year served at Ladder Up’s Kennedy-King College site in her neighborhood.

“It’s very accessible,” she said. “You don’t have to go out of your way.”

No accounting degree required

At the site, volunteers have a variety of roles. Some help prepare taxes while others check-in and verify potential clients’ eligibility.

Through in-person and online trainings funded by the national Volunteer In Tax Assistance (VITA) program, volunteers are prepared to answer clients’ questions and explain the process of filing. They also help clients access tax credits they may not have known they’re eligible for — like the Earned Income Tax Credit and those related to childcare expenses and post-secondary education.

And many do so without any educational or work experience in taxation. Ladder Up and CEP train volunteers from all different industries and educational experiences.

“You do not need a tax or finance background to do this…We have volunteers who are law students, engineers, software developers,” Christine said. “Back in the day, we used to say ‘You only need a sharp mind and a sharp pencil’…but now you don’t even need the sharp pencil! We have online software.”

What is required is a desire to help others and facilitate a connection with your neighbors, Christine said.

“The point of what we do is not just about tax returns. It’s really what the service means to the clients,” she added. “We’re connecting people to other people in their community who want to give. It’s that someone on the other end of the table chose to give their time to help a stranger do this complicated and scary thing that is filing your taxes.”


LadderUp and CEP are currently recruiting volunteers to assist with the 2019 tax season. Are you ready to help? Visit our Volunteer Portal to sign up today!


The Changemakers: United Way Volunteers Make a Difference

When she’s not sifting through spreadsheets in her audit department at KPMG, Sara Clancy lends her leadership skills to a good cause. As chair of our Young Leaders United (YLU) affinity group, Sara leads the team of philanthropic young adults through volunteer projects and planning for fundraising events.

She’s new to the gig, but her energy and commitment to United Way of Metro Chicago’s mission made her a natural fit to serve at its helm. Sara also has strong ties to the group. Since she joined four years ago, she’s served on YLU’s membership development committee and as co-chair.

Though her position has changed, her objective has stayed consistent – she hopes to make a positive difference in the lives of families across the Chicago region.

“I really like United Way’s Neighborhood Network [Initiative] and the way it works with multiple organizations to bring about a key change that the neighborhoods are focused on,” Sara said. “The biggest reason why I joined was because I feel that United Way has the biggest potential to make a large impact.”


More than a service project

In her tenure, Sara’s had the opportunity to be a part of the change she hopes to see in the Chicago region. 

She’s volunteered with her fellow YLU members to improve community gardens, paint local schools and served as a practice partner for ESL students, an opportunity that made a lasting impression.

“It was awesome to see people who had only been here for three months. You could see it in their eyes how bad they wanted to learn English because they wanted to land a good job, and this class was really helping them,” Sara said. “It was also great to have that personal connection and feel like you were able to make a difference with nothing more than speaking the language you grew up with.”

This time of year, she’s busy readying for YLU’s signature event, IGNITE. The festive, mid-winter party benefits United Way’s AmeriCorps volunteers who work in 10 neighborhoods across the Chicago region.

While Sara’s been involved in previous years, this is her first year leading the event. She’s excited for the challenge, as well as the new skills she’ll acquire and the connections she’s making in her personal and professional networks.

“It’s been a great opportunity to see something that’s outside of my normal day-to-day,” Sara said. “I find it’s a fulfilling way to get connected to the community in ways that you don’t get to in your normal life. And it’s totally doable no matter what line of work you’re in or whatever your passion is.”


Making a lasting impact

Sara is one of many dedicated volunteers who’s committed their time to advancing United Way of Metro Chicago’s mission to build stronger neighborhoods. Other United Way volunteers work in a variety of positions to fundraise for United Way or increase the capacity of our agency partners throughout the community.

Some volunteers, like Sara, plan fundraisers and complete community projects through an affinity group like YLU, Women United, Black Leaders United or United Pride. Others participate with their companies in a Day of Caring, which can be an on-site work project or packaging Care Projects as a team.

One of the most popular group volunteer opportunities, the Care Projects are completed by a large group of employees in their office. They include organizing items, like diapers and baby goods or snacks, into kits for new moms or kids in after-school programs. United Way of Metro Chicago then connects the kits with individuals and families in need through our agency partners.

If a group project or leading an affinity group isn’t for you, have no fear.

Caitlin Closser, our senior manager of corporate engagement, encourages you to make a weekly commitment to volunteer at one of our community partner agencies across the region. They’re often looking for volunteers to mentor high school students, organize donations at a food pantry or help your neighbors prepare their taxes.

“The best way to make a difference for an agency, who are our partners doing the work on the ground, is to sign up to be a committed volunteer,” Caitlin explained. “There’s lots of opportunities out there, and they need people to come back week after week. Then, they can learn the work and be more effective in getting it done.”


Commit to volunteering today!

We thank you for your consideration and commitment to advancing the mission of United Way of Metro Chicago. When we all participate, we can help ensure that our neighbors have the tools they need to reach their full potential. 

To find volunteer opportunities, check out our Volunteer Calendar today! If you’re interested in joining an affinity group, learn more here.


AmeriCorps Volunteers: Chicago’s Unsung Community Champions

With three academic degrees, fluency in five languages and a slew of certificates under her belt, Gabriela Juárez Domínguez has the skills to succeed in several careers. However, the Rogers Park resident is dedicating a year of her life to improving the lives of others in the Chicago region, serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer for the United Way of Metro Chicago.

“I’m excited and really like my work,” said Gabriela, who supports social emotional learning, technology and art programs for children and teens in Little Village, a neighborhood located in southwest Chicago. “We work to improve the conditions of people.”

Having returned to the United States after 12 years in Spain, Gabriela saw AmeriCorps, a national service program operating across the country, as an opportunity to reignite her career and “update” her toolkit of skills needed to serve in the city’s non-profit sector. With nearly half her commitment fulfilled, Gabriela is making great strides toward fulfilling these goals.

Gabriela, Bianca and several United Way AmeriCorps members at this year’s Ignite event.

Ten United Way of Metro Chicago AmeriCorps members, ranging from 18-years-old to 50-years-old and at all levels of professional experience, serve in eight neighborhoods, supporting a range of programs and services that help connect residents to much-needed resources. “We want to raise up leaders already in the community to find solutions to problems,” said Bianca Cotton, United Way of Metro Chicago’s AmeriCorps program manager. “They have the training, capacity and connections to do so.”

Some, like Gabriela, are embedded in specific United Way funded community agencies, like Latinos Progresando and OPEN Center for the Arts, while others support individuals working to create a network of grassroots organizations within their communities. These “change agents” also connect with local leaders to advance their efforts and host events, like peace walks and studies to assess neighborhood safety. “They are the boots on the ground day to day, interacting with who we raise money for — teachers, students, parents,” Bianca said. “They get to see the real impact. They’re in it.”

Though they have their hands full supporting existing programs, the AmeriCorps members have an entrepreneurial spirit, too. Gabriela and others in her cohort are going above and beyond to meet unaddressed needs in their communities. For example, she’s creating and directing an art and healing program called “ActiveArte.” Another member is designing a program in South Chicago to help veterans navigate a range of health and social service systems.

In addition to their volunteer work, the AmeriCorps members receive specialized training in life and workforce development, like conflict resolution, entrepreneurship and professional etiquette. These trainings are intended to prepare the volunteers for their careers after their service. Gabriela is ahead of the game, as she’s already secured a job with OPEN Center for the Arts.

AmeriCorps members taking a break and sharing a laugh during training.

“I’ve learned leadership skills and my self-confidence is better. The workshops have made me understand the importance of networking,” Gabriela said of the training programs. “The compassion training helped me understand the community I’m working in and to be more empathetic to the community members.”

The United Way of Metro Chicago’s AmeriCorps program began in 2016 and has hosted nearly two dozen volunteers since its initiation. Applications are now open for the next cohort of AmeriCorps members who will begin their tenure in October. Bianca is searching for open-minded, service-oriented individuals who seize opportunities, want to learn and are team players. Visit our careers page for more information. 

If you’d like to help support the work of these devoted volunteers in Chicago’s neighborhoods, donate to United Way of Metro Chicago today. Your dollars will not only benefit residents in need but help shape the future careers of hardworking AmeriCorps volunteers, like Gabriela!


The 4th Annual YLS IGNITE

Our 4th annual YLU IGNITE was one of our most successful yet! 

Hosted by Young Leaders United, this mid-winter party is an opportunity for young philanthropists to help raise funds for different United Way programs each year, all while having a fun-filled evening with friends, new and old.

Hosted at Savage Smyth, one of Chicago’s hottest venues, this year’s event included a live band, The Local Jokes, as well as dancing, drinks, a photo booth and a rooftop ice skating rink. We were in good company, too. Israel Idonije, founder of iF Charities and former Defensive End for the Chicago Bears, joined the celebration, along with WGN-TV Anchor Dan Ponce, who livened up the night as our emcee. 

Igniting an impact

IGNITE 2018 was made possible by the generous donations of 26 corporate sponsors, including our patron sponsors, Exelon and the Skender Foundation. After thoughtful donations, ticket sales and silent auction proceeds, the event raised more than $95,000.

The proceeds from IGNITE will help support our AmeriCorps members across the Chicago region. With these donations, United Way will have the resources to provide the long-term volunteers with invaluable training sessions and help them maintain their community-service programs. Thanks to YLU and the annual IGNITE event, the amazing service of the AmeriCorps members will have an even greater impact within our communities!


Connecting Problems to Problem Solvers – South Suburban PADS and Chicago Area Drywall Finishers

One of United Way’s greatest strengths is our unique ability to connect passionate people to issues in communities that need solving. Because our partnerships reach across businesses, labor unions, individuals, nonprofit agencies and community groups, we can make connections that improve lives and neighborhoods.

Recently, we learned that South Suburban PADS, an organization providing emergency shelter to neighbors in need, was struggling with a mold issue in the basement of their location in Chicago Heights. The mold was making the space unusable, limiting the number of people that they were able to provide a safe place to sleep.

After PADS performed some necessary renovations in their basement, much of the drywall was destroyed. As a result, a huge portion of their shelter space became unusable, which was limiting the number of individuals they could provide emergency shelter to. Through our labor team’s relationship with the Chicago Area Drywall Finishers, they were able to alert the Union to the issue and bring them in to help South Suburban PADS.

Just days after our labor team called the Union, they volunteered apprentices from their program and were at the agency working to repair the problem. After a week of work, the volunteers were able to make the entire basement livable again.

South Suburban PADS is now able to serve all clients in need and the volunteers from the Chicago Area Drywall Finishers were happy to be able to help out in a time of need.

June Volunteer Action

This month United Ways across the country are making their mark by hosting volunteer events to help advance the building blocks of self-sufficiency: Education, Income and Health.

2013 marks the 6th annual United Way Day of Action and we are using this day to not just highlight a single month of action, but use it as a launching pad for ongoing engagement. If we can mobilize almost 700 volunteers in June alone, imagine the possibilities for Chicagoland year-round.

United Way of Metropolitan Chicago would like to show the community how some of Chicago’s corporate partners contribute to a larger network of volunteers across the country during this single month of action.

Thank you to Accenture,  American Agricultural Insurance Company, AT&T, BlueCross BlueShield, BMO Financial Group, Deloitte, Dow Chemical, Mesirow Financial, Nielsen, Northern Trust, Performics, True Value Company, and Zurich North America for lending their muscle this month. Below are descriptions of various projects supporting United Way Partner Agencies.



Early June, Mesirow Financial will beautify the grounds of Burroughs Elementary supporting United Way’s newly launched LIVE UNITED Neighborhood Network in Brighton Park. As a supporter of this initiative, Mesirow is further focusing its resources by targeting volunteer efforts here, creating a deeper and lasting impact.

On June 7, as part of their national volunteer day, Performics will partner with United Way to mobilize over 200 volunteers. They will participate in a variety of projects that support agencies that specialize in education programming and financial stability.

  • 30 volunteers will set up the Fun day for school-age youth (last day of programming); prepping for Summer Fun, landscaping, updating bulletin boards, etc with Chicago Youth Centers at their Elliott Donnelly Youth Center.
  • 150 volunteers will deep clean, paint, garden and tutor youth at three different YMCA locations across Chicagoland. These facilities host educational programming for youth after school and during the summer.
  • 30 volunteers will shelve books, audio disks, and work with adults and children who are blind or visually impaired at Chicago Lighthouse.

Saturday, June 8, United Way will send 25 volunteers from our Young Leaders Society to paint Marshall High School in a Chicago community of greatest need. These young philanthropic leaders are supporting education by ensuring children have a safe and clean environment to learn.

June 13, 25 Nielson volunteers will support children, teachers, and faculty through tutoring and various needs, including painting and administrative support, truly helping asses and meet a number of different needs this agency has in one day.

June 28, 40 Accenture volunteers will chaperon summer day camp at Youth Crossroads in Berwyn, playing games and leading educational workshops. This promotes active learning for youth over the summer.



June 4, United Way has paired with American Agricultural Insurance Company to beautify Countryside Association’s exterior. Over the course of a few days, 15 volunteers will paint, mulch, and garden, helping support the financial stability work this agency does every day. Through their volunteer efforts, this new business is looking forward to building a strong relationship with United Way

June 5, United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) is conducting mock interviews for Erie Neighborhood House for clients in their Workforce Development Program. This is the second time YLS has participated, prepping over 25 clients for permanent placement in the job market.

The week of June 5, BMO Financial Group will be mobilizing over 150 volunteers to support a United Way Partner Agency which helps its clients gain financial stability. Volunteers can participate in four different projects:

  • Volunteers will paint client counseling rooms to provide a welcoming environment.
  • Volunteers will collect, organize, sort, and deliver women’s professional clothes to empower them for upcoming job interviews.
  • Volunteers will assemble “Starter Kits” for domestic abuse survivor victims getting back on their feet.
  • Volunteers will conduct mock phone interviews to job seekers who use this agency’s Community Career Center. Each call lasts one hour, 30 minutes for a mock interview and another 30 minutes for interviewer feedback and suggestions.

June 6, As part of their Global Community Week, Zurich will run its second annual Volunteer Fest and Skillshare Summit in Schaumburg. A shining example of skills-based volunteering, non-profits are invited to attend various capacity building workshops run by Zurich employees. These include:

  • The Power of Networking,
  • The Recipe for Working with a Corporate Volunteer Group,
  • Navigating the World of Social Media,
  • Learning How to Plan for Today’s Talent Demands.

On June 21, Dow Chemical will partner with Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; purchasing supplies for a project to complete with 20 volunteer and adult clients, helping ultimately build social skills necessary for every day life and career success.



On June 1, 8, 9, & 23, 40 BlueCross BlueShield volunteers will partner with United Way to support agencies with health programming. As a health insurance company, BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois sends the bulk of their employee volunteers to health-related agencies by serving and distributing food. Volunteers will:

  • Help distribute food items to community members in need at Loaves and Fishes.
  • Act as cooks and servers for clients at Living Room Cafe.
  • Act as cooks and servers for clients at Inspiration Cafe.
  • Help sort and distribute food to community members where there is little-to-no access to fresh produce.

June 6, 40 Deloitte volunteers will volunteer with United Way as part of their National Impact Day. This project will consist of outdoor beautification and landscaping at the McCormick Tribune YMCA. This United Way Partner Agency sits on a very large piece of property with lots of flower beds and areas requiring weeding, clean-out, and maintenance.

Over the course of June 6  and 25, 50 Northern Trust volunteers will sort and organize food in the warehouse and package individual food boxes for distribution to the Mother & Child Nutrition Program and the Senior Citizens Supplemental Food Program.

June 13, 15 AT&T Women of Finance mentoring group volunteers will do a mix of painting and interacting with the summer day campers supporting active summer lifestyles at Indian Boundary YMCA.

June 28, 12 True Value volunteers will play games, arts & crafts, read, and participate in light physical activities with the Head Start youth education programs supported by United Way.

June 20, 15 Zurich volunteers are working with a Chicago Public School to help with their annual field day. This activity supports United Way’s Health Initiative as they will help with games, activities and healthy snacks.

If you would like to get involved in June Action this year or next year, please contact Kristen Johnson, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, 312.906.2496, Kristen.johnson@uw-mc.org.

Thank You to Our Volunteers!


In recognition of  National Volunteer Week,  United Way  thanks  our more than  4,000 volunteers  who helped improve the education, income, and health of our communities in 2012. By lending a hand, you show us all what it means to  LIVE UNITED.

This week especially, we want to  thank the individuals, families, corporate partners, nonprofit agencies and community leaders who dedicate not just their dollars, but their time, to help support our community-impact plan, LIVE UNITED 2020.  United Way volunteers are critical to achieving LIVE UNITED 2020 by helping us transform communities of greatest need across our six-county footprint. We know that change won’t happen without them. Their time, talent and resources are essential to the on-the-ground work our communities need to make this plan a reality. In fact, more than 4,000 United Way volunteers saved our partner agencies $350,000 through  15,000 donated hours in 2012 alone.

Whatever your talents are, you can use them  to change the story for children and families across Chicagoland. Join volunteers already making a  meaningful difference in our community –  find a volunteer opportunity today!


Produce Day with Young Leaders Society

Produce Day

Despite how ill-prepared I was for the cold, the Libby School Produce Day was a huge success. I made a statement (not a request) to my boss letting him know I would not be coming to work Friday, as my time would be better served at the volunteer event. Surprisingly, he  didn’t  put up a fight and actually told me our company has days allocated for volunteering–something to keep in mind and definitely ask your boss about if you haven’t already.

We had a solid group of volunteers including me, a friend, Young Leaders Society volunteer, Libby School staff, and United Way representatives who went to a food desert in Back of the Yards neighborhood.

The food distribution crew unloaded 8-10 palettes of fresh produce including fruits, vegetables and bread in the parking lot outside the school. They set up the palettes and the carrots towered above us, we were in charge of divvying up the food.
We strong armed the produce out of the sacks and made individual bags for pick up–it was set up like a grocery store. Each family had a wagon or a cart and each could get one-two bags of produce and two loafs of bread.

The biggest challenge was actually ripping open the plastic netting. Only to find out an hour after there was a box cutter brought specifically to ease our task! Better late than never and we made it out without losing any fingers.

We went through 70% of the food before it was nearing the end. At that point, anyone left was able to take as much as they wanted.

There were a handful of bread loaves, but other than that families cleaned the place out. The other volunteers were so wonderful and so grateful for our help; because we were there Libby School staff could teach instead of feeding the neighborhood.

After we completed the school’s staff told us they were probably on the city’s close list this year and that was heart breaking. So many schools on the close list have to overcome a landslide of obstacles–academics are sometimes secondary to feeding the students and their families.

In sum, families were fed, fingers were frozen, fun was had and hearts were warmed. I can’t wait to do it again. This time I’ll be smart enough to dress appropriately so I won’t have to thaw out my feet under the hand dryer. Join United Way’s Young Leaders Society and make a difference by feeding communities who  wouldn’t  otherwise have access to fresh produce!

Blog post submitted on behalf of  YLS Committee Member, Molly Russell.