Volunteers are the heart and hands of IOCP. Their generous time, energy and savvy make our programs possible. From individuals and families to civic groups and corporations, volunteers are the service multipliers who grow our capacity to serve struggling families on a daily basis.
Each month, we highlight a volunteer from one of our many programs.
April Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Taylor, Administrative Volunteer
What is your volunteer role at IOCP?
On Wednesday mornings, I serve as receptionist for the Food Shelf. The Food Shelf itself does not open until 9 a.m., but clients may get their service numbers up to 2 hours in advance. I am usually at IOCP by 6:45 a.m., and I always have people waiting for me!
Then, I work another 2-4 hours inputting data into the fundraising database. I sit in a cubby and type away or stuff envelopes. I get to see firsthand how a nonprofit can listen to, educate, and express gratitude to its donors. As a grant writer myself, I learn from doing these simple but meaningful tasks.
When did you begin volunteering with IOCP? What brought you here?
I have been at IOCP a bit over a year. My sister Ellie Singer has volunteered for years and is committed to this volunteer work. She was so enthusiastic I had to check it out for myself. Lynn and Liz are so excited whenever someone volunteers – you just have to do it for them if for no other reason.
Why do you continue to volunteer with IOCP?
There are lots of reason I continue to volunteer at IOCP, but they all come down to the people that grace this building each Wednesday. Since it is the clients I see first (at o’dark-thirty), they are the first ambassadors of this special place. Most of the early birds are Russian speakers, and they are so kind to me – opening doors, bringing me a mint, even shoveling a path from the building to my car! Then, the staff starts trickling in. Every one of them has a smile and a “hello” for me and anyone sitting in the lobby. The food shelf workers are a unique group. They all have a quirky sense of humor, and most of them seem to have formed a family with the clients and other volunteers of the day. The most uplifting reason for me to continue to be here, though, is the witness I can give to the wondrous and inspiring dialogue among the staff and volunteers. Every Wednesday, I sit way back in my cubby and listen to the interactions that go on in the “break area.” I have NEVER heard a negative comment in all the time I’ve worked at IOCP. The people who share their skills and talents in the building love what they are doing, care deeply about the clients, and have fun doing what they do. That is a work environment I wish everyone could know and grow!
What is something that most people don’t know about administrative work at IOCP?
I probably know less than anyone about the administrative work at IOCP as the early morning hours are generally pretty quiet. I can tell you that the IOCP Board members, the staff, and volunteers will do everything they can to help a client, create a new solution, or continue the good working relationship. That, and LaDonna is often the first person at work!
In addition to volunteering at IOCP, how else do you spend your time (Hobbies? Other volunteer work? Family?)
I am virtually retired from a paying job these days. As this year has progressed, however, I have added a few volunteer jobs so that my days are pretty full. I write newsletters for 2 organizations, and I write grant proposals for my church. I try to swim at least 4 days a week and take lots of free classes at the library. I have a very large family and almost all of us live in the Twin Cities, so there is plenty of back and forth. Unfortunately, my own grandchildren do not live in Minnesota, so I don’t have much face time with them.
What have you learned through your time volunteering at IOCP?
Contrary to what is the stereotype, most people using food shelves these days are older people, people my age and older. Most of us live on Social Security, and it does not cover all the challenges of our daily lives.
Any interesting or memorable stories about your volunteer work?
For me, getting to know the Wednesday morning food shelf volunteers is so rewarding. As a fundraiser, I know that your volunteers are the heart of your organization – and very often the face of it. Volunteers who smile, get into the spirit of holidays or special programs in the nonprofit, or just among themselves make an organization sing. IOCP Food Shelf volunteers are all different, but they all come to have fun.
Favorite place to eat or visit in the area?
I have not eaten in the area since I live in Edina – unless you count what staff and volunteers bring into the IOCP break room to share. I can vouch for those good treats!
Thank you to Mary and all our administrative volunteers!
Read more about other volunteers: