Jennifer's Story: When Volunteers Go Above & Beyond

Jul 21, 2018 | by The Salvation Army


For our Family Services Department, Mondays are Produce Push days: thanks to a generous partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, we receive beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables and distribute them to local families. Unlike our monthly food program, this allows us to serve and connect with the community on a more regular basis. Depending on the size of the family, each box contains around 6-7 items, such as fresh peaches, carrots, artichokes, lettuce, and strawberries.

Jennifer, a local senior, has been a faithful Produce Push volunteer for months. She volunteers with us every Monday from 8:30 am to noon. She bags onions and apples, distributes food, and breaks down boxes.

One of Jennifer’s tasks is handing out produce to hundreds of people who line up to receive their fresh produce. While working side-by-side with staff and other volunteers to distribute food, Jennifer noticed that a language barrier kept many of the volunteers and workers from engaging with the people they served—many of whom were Chinese seniors, Mandarin-speaking seniors.

Jennifer understood all too well how language barriers could be isolating. As a native Spanish speaker, she’s no stranger to communication woes. But a simple language barrier wasn’t going to stop her. She wanted to be able to greet the clients, understand their “thank yous,” and exchange a few common phrases.

So she started learning Mandarin.

Jennifer found a bilingual speaker at the library who could help her with common phrases. She’s taken pages and pages of notes, trying to write down all the words she learns so she can study them during the week. Each Monday during Produce Push, she tries out the new phrases and gets to connect a little more deeply with each shared word.

We are so proud to have volunteers like Jennifer, who go above and beyond to connect with the people we serve. Thanks to people like her, we continue to reach thousands of children, families, and individuals throughout the Bay Area each year.

Want to make an impact?

We have a number of ongoing volunteer opportunities. Whether you come as an individual or bring a whole group of friends or coworkers, you're sure to make a positive impact on members of the Silicon Valley community.

Please note: names in this story have been changed as a courtesy.

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