No volunteers = No Waste Not Want Not

Waste Not Want Not volunteers rescue food for those in need 362 days a year.  They work hard to put food in the hands of those in need.   For a taste of what volunteers do, read these excerpts from our nomination of JAE as the Celebrate Clay 2011 Outstanding Community Volunteer of the Year: 

Waste Not Want Not’s nominee for Outstanding Community Volunteer of the year is JAE.  Waste Not Want Not is a volunteer-based organization dependent on volunteers to carry out our mission of rescuing food for those in need, so we have many wonderful volunteers.  Each plays a critical role in our carefully choreographed ballet, but occasionally we are blessed by one who contributes much more than we could expect.  In 2011, JAE was such a volunteer, willingly devoting enormous amounts of time and effort to our mission.  JAE has volunteered with Waste Not for many years and has continued to become more involved each year, taking on more and more tasks and handling them all with constant cheerfulness.  JAE helps Waste Not run smoothly; helping us put food into the hands of 4,400 Clay County residents every week (11,000 people a week in all). 

On Mondays, JAE arrives at Waste Not’s sorting center at 8:30 am.  From then until noon, JAE runs the shop, doing everything needed to ensure that all 4,000 pounds of food typically received on Monday is distributed in a timely manner.  JAE warmly welcomes volunteer-drivers who are dropping off the day’s donations, then sorts through the items to select and pack just the right food for each of Monday’s scheduled recipient organizations in time for their arrival. The recipients too are greeted warmly and JAE helps them load the food into their vehicles. JAE coordinates the other volunteers, directs and supervises court-ordered helpers, responds to the inevitable unexpected events, and contacts waitlisted recipients when we have extra food to share.  In any spare time, JAE also cleans the bathroom, wipes down the inside of our refrigerators, and sweeps the floor. 

Some days, when Waste Not receives lots more food from the larger bakeries than expected (the first two months of the summer last year and the whole month of December, for example), days at the sorting center are even longer.  JAE arrived by 8 am to pull towers of food out of the building, just to create enough room to work. While JAE worked, other volunteers, returning from the 6 am Bimbo Bakeries run, would unload new towers by the side of our building.  At the end of the morning, JAE would drag these inside into the space just emptied by the efforts of the Monday volunteers.

Early last summer, when Bimbo Bakeries offered Waste Not Want Not four extra truckloads of food a week, our Volunteer Coordinator put out an impassioned appeal for volunteers willing to do a 6am truck run.  I thought she was crazy, as we barely had enough volunteers willing to do the Sara Lee and Flowers runs as it was, and those runs take place at a civilized hour.  Truck runs have traditionally been the hardest volunteer opportunities for us to fill because of the longer time commitment, the non-airconditioned warehouses, and the physical workout involved.

JAE was among first to volunteer for the early morning run. JAE gets up early every Tuesday, shows up at building by 6 am for the drive to Bimbo, sorts the product onto trays, stacks trays into towers, loads towers onto the truck, rides back to building, unloads the new food, and then load empty Sara Lee trays for mid-morning run.  Then instead of ducking out to go back to bed, since JAE is familiar with the daily routine, JAE sticks around to assist the Tuesday crew if they need help getting started.  Our Volunteer Coordinator thought and hoped that JAE’s assistance on Tuesday mornings would only have to be temporary.  Unfortunately, we have not yet found enough other volunteers crazy, I mean, dedicated enough to take over this early morning workout, so JAE kindly continues to rise early every Tuesday with a smile.

In addition to the regular Monday and Tuesday commitments to Waste Not Want Not, JAE is always available to help with any serendipitous rescues.  When we get a call from the bulk mail warehouse, offering us 2500-3000 pounds of citrus if we can be there within the next two hours, JAE always agrees to go rescue that food.  And while others are sometimes willing to do a post office run, none of them stay to sort through what they have delivered; discarding rotten fruit, wiping dry good fruit, and re-boxing the good stuff into clean boxes.  More often than not, when  one of the Voortmann  distributors calls, offering us 200 cases of cookies, JAE is the volunteer ready, willing, and able to pick up that food at a moment’s notice.  And after delivering all those cases, unlike most who just drop them off, JAE stays a while to affix “not-for-resale” labels to the packages in several dozen cases “just some will be ready for tomorrow.”

JAE is more than 70 years young, so you might think that the time donated to Waste Not Want Not would be more than enough excitement for JAE each week.  But JAE also regularly volunteers at the OP Presbyterian Church, sings in the church choir, chauffeurs other seniors less able to get around, and volunteers at the Orange Park Clothes Closet. Whether at Waste Not Want Not or elsewhere, JAE continually strives to makes others’ lives better.

We believe JAE deserves to be recognized for exceptional service to Waste Not Want Not and to the residents of Clay County.  It is not just the number of hours donated, but the positive impact that JAE has on the lives of so many in need that is commendable.  We are proud to nominate JAE, aka Joan And Ed Poole, a couple who always volunteer together as one, as the 2011 Peggy Bryan Outstanding Community Volunteer.