February 8, 2022 Volunteer Spotlight: Maria’s Story Maria preparing a meal for community members. Getting Started At The StopI came into volunteer work with The Stop in February of 2020 after my therapist recommended it. I’d recently finished a program that required participants to be of service to others through volunteer work and community engagement. I began volunteering right before the pandemic hit in March of 2020, and it was truly my saving grace.I volunteer with the drop-in on Mondays and spend time at Wychwood Open Door (WOD) on Wednesday’s. At the drop-in program out of 1884 Davenport I help bag lunches and get them ready for community members to take and help out around the kitchen as needed. At WOD I help prepare breakfast and lunch every other week. I’d also done a lot of work at the weekly Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns in the summer months!I’m proud of my work because I know it makes a difference to people. Volunteering through the pandemic made this so clear: the need grew, our lines grew longer, more families were relying on our emergency food services. As a volunteer you can see the impact right away because you’re preparing and distributing food to meet an immediate need. It’s important work that needs to be done, and I’m proud that The Stop remained open through the pandemic- people need us and it’s essential that we are here for them.Serving Healthy, Nutritious, Beautiful Food To CommunityWhen someone says they’re going to a community center to get breakfast or lunch there’s sometimes an assumption that the food won’t be good. One of the things I’m proud of at The Stop is that we have incredible chefs and volunteers who go the extra mile to prepare meals that are healthy and beautiful. They’re not just ordinary lunches, they’re these amazing soups and meat dishes made from scratch. The food is just amazing and I find it so important that there’s so much thought and care that goes into the food we serve. I’ve never had food like the food I’ve had at The Stop before and there’s so much that goes into preparing these meals, serving them and watching people really enjoy the food.It’s a point of pride for me and so many others at The Stop because it’s about dignity and making sure everyone has access to healthy, culturally specific, beautiful meals. We don’t just put anything out there. Our chefs and volunteers are constantly thinking about the nutritional value and presentation of food, and it’s nice to be there to see the impact of this on people, the compliments to our chefs and volunteers from community who love the food.To Anyone Considering Volunteer Work at The Stop: Join Us! If I were to speak to someone on the fence about volunteering with us, I’d say that this role has been a blessing to me. The hardest part is getting over the anxiety of what it will be like, what might happen or the fear of trying something new, but I did it, got settled into my role, and have had such an amazing experience. Volunteering with The Stop through this pandemic has also helped me. It was a difficult time for many, but I truly believe it was the perfect time and am thankful for the opportunity. I live alone, and the only contact that I had with the outside world was through my volunteer work. If I weren’t volunteering I’d fear for my mental health, because lockdowns can be quite isolating, and that’s not good for me. Volunteering with The Stop has been like medicine for me. I’ve found it so helpful to be volunteering and supporting the community in ways that are useful to others and give back. Connecting with the volunteer team and staff has also been important to me, because it’s so clear how much we all love this work.In March it will be two years of volunteering with The Stop and I’ve made such great friends along the way! The other volunteers have been amazing to work with, very kind and giving. We all work together to get the job done and build real connections with chefs, volunteers and community here. This past Christmas we actually did a socially distanced volunteer potluck. It was so nice because the people I volunteer with have become great friends and people I admire. We come from such a wide range of backgrounds – different ages, work histories, cultural backgrounds, education and so much more. We’re coming together to give back to the community and contributing to something much bigger than ourselves.Ultimately I love my volunteer work with The Stop because I’m passionate about helping others. I think everyone needs help at some point in their lives and it’s important to me to be there for my community.