This past Friday, Martha’s Table hosted 40 volunteers from KPMG LLP, a tax audit advisory firm. We were planning their day of service for weeks, and finally the day came. 40 of them stepped off the bus and into our kitchen, ready to get to work. We split the volunteers into four groups. One group went to organize the library in the Children’s Program, another group to the pantry to make pantry bags, another group were brave enough to help clean and organize our basement and the last group stayed in the kitchen to prepare food for the Children’s Program and for McKenna’s Wagon.
Kristine, our new Volunteer and Development Coordinator, and I (the fall intern) lead the groups to their designated areas. Everyone was eager to get started. Once everyone was settled in, I had the opportunity to speak to the majority of the volunteers, all of whom were extremely dedicated to their task.
First, I checked on food prep. They were chopping onions, carrots, and potatoes, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cutting pastries, bagging meals, and having a great time. Most of them were curious where the food would end up, so we explained to them how our volunteer-run mobile street feeding program (McKenna’s Wagon) operated 365 days a year, and how we feed several thousand people each year. They were all thoroughly impressed, and most expressed interest in coming back to see where the food goes with the McKenna’s Wagon vans.
Next, I traveled to the library, which I had discovered only earlier that day. The crew consisted of about six women who were sorting the books by age appropriateness. When I came to talk to them, they were all immersed in their work, making sure the books all ended up in the shelves according to their system. They all expressed how impressed they were with the Children’s Program facilities, and wished they were able to see it in action (the kids don’t arrive until 3:30 pm). Their task took them all the way up to when their bus left, so we know they were all doing a great job.
I then went to check on the group in the pantry. On my way over, I ran into the group assisting the facilities managers, but they were too much in transit and had too much heavy equipment to speak for too long. They seemed to be working hard, so I kept walking. When I arrived at the pantry, the group already had a system going. Our food program manager was overseeing and answering the occasional question, but the volunteers seemed to have a tight grasp on their task. They had the lists of what was required in the pantry bags, and some would be collecting the goods while others were placing the items into the bags. Overall, they made more than 300 bags, which was an enormous help to the food program here at Martha’s Table. The pantry crew also worked right up until the debrief session, because they were so immersed in their work that they wanted to be as efficient as possible.
When the whole group met up at the end, around 12:30, they all looked exhausted. One person from each group gave a brief overview of their day, and everyone seemed to have gotten so much out of this experience. As we debriefed, the food preparers continued to work because they refused to leave until every meal was in a bag and ready to be shipped out on the vans. In the end we stepped outside to take a group picture under the Martha’s Table sign.
Overall, I think that KPMG had a great time and they helped us more than we could have imagined in those two and a half hours. Martha’s Table tries to accommodate as many groups as possible, and although it is rare that we can successfully accommodate a group of 40, when we can, it proves to be unbelievably rewarding for them and unbelievably helpful for us.