Tracy Arbaugh has been an integral part of Loaves & Fishes over the past 10 years. She first started by volunteering with her family on the first Saturday of each month when the pantry ran out of Jackson Via Elementary. Three years later, the time requirements of her job as a preschool teacher offered the opportunity to volunteer on Wednesday afternoons – and she’s been active ever since!
Through volunteering, Tracy learned about the pantry’s plan to implement a web-based volunteer management tool called VolunteerHub. Based on her previous experience with IT-related tasks, she volunteered to implement VolunteerHub, taking it live in 2017.
Tracy then accepted a job-sharing role of Volunteer Coordinator and a year later, took over managing 160+ volunteers each week. She shared that she loves working with volunteers – getting to know them and seeing their enthusiasm for working on the variety of tasks that enables Loaves & Fishes to feed thousands of families each year.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Loaves & Fishes first altered its operations by reducing the number of volunteers working in the pantry, increasing existing staff’s hours, and hiring additional part-time staff to have the same people working together consistently. Existing staff like Tracy and Matthew Gariepy, our on-site Volunteer Supervisor, became active warehouse workers and part of a strong team focused on reimagining the efficient distribution of food to visitors in our parking lot.
Tracy works closely with Loaves & Fishes’ Nutritionist, Monica Davis (hired 20 hours/week in May), to determine the optimum variety of produce that will provide the most nourishment to pantry visitors. Tracy also pitches in with other warehouse tasks to prepare for each of the weekly distributions and continues to schedule, welcome and train volunteers. Tracy is also working to implement a new web-based inventory system that will go live on January 1, 2021. Tracy’s most recent addition to her warehouse resume includes becoming certified to drive the pantry’s forklift!
When asked what has kept Tracy involved with Loaves & Fishes, she responds “It’s the team! Everyone cares so much. We turned our food distribution model upside down to enable us to feed increasing numbers of visitors. What all of us really miss is the interaction with clients – helping them select groceries, chatting with them during the intake process, and providing them with information about interesting foods available such as rutabaga and sharing some of the great recipes created by Monica.” She also noted that strong teamwork and working with so many people who are looking to share food, resources, and their time, is what ensures the pantry’s success. Despite the constant changes and challenges – such as the first distribution day of hard rain – the team creatively pulls together to adapt, ensuring everyone who visits receives food.
Soon, Tracy hopes, she will be able to welcome back hundreds of volunteers. She noted her desire that there will again be tasks for a variety of skill sets – and stamina – including sitting at the computer doing intake, serving as a Client Guide to help clients choose their food, helping to prepare for the food distribution days by sorting and bagging produce – and a wide variety of other volunteer activities.