This month’s JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry Volunteer Spotlight features Ellen! Affectionately known as “The Bread Lady” at the pantry, Ellen has been volunteering on Wednesdays for six years. Her responsibilities range from picking up bread and sweets from Giant Eagle to stocking shelves to shopping with clients. Ellen started volunteering with the food pantry after being encouraged by some of her friends that also volunteered there.
Ellen previously worked in retail for 35 years before retiring. Now, instead of helping retail customers buy merchandise, she helps food pantry clients find the produce and food items they need by shopping with them and by organizing the shelves to create eye-catching displays. “I’m used to helping people, just in a different way,” she explained. “My favorite thing to do is stock the shelves. It’s the retail in me!… When clients come in, I want it to look full and shoppable.”
Ellen loves that she gets to know the clients and families that come to the food pantry. “One of the clients would bring their daughter who had the same Hebrew name as me! They would come in and always remember me because of that.” She loves that she shares the same stories and experiences with many of the clients who use the food pantry because it helps them relate to each other. One of the most surprising moments to her is when clients ask to know more about her life, and she’s always happy to share.
She also shares her volunteering experience with her daughter, bringing her along sometimes to help out. “It’s nice for my family to see what I do. It’s part of my life! Everybody knows that,” Ellen said. She’s also made friends with several of the other pantry volunteers.
Ellen would encourage everyone to try volunteering somewhere. “It’s so worth it. There are people out there that you don’t even know need help,” Ellen expressed. “It’s really rewarding to know you are helping!… Everybody is appreciative and thankful. It really gives a sense of fulfillment.”