Fridays with Philabundance: Retired Engineer Volunteers Weekly in the Warehouse

Posted by Kali Hamilton on March 23rd, 2017

Written by Michael Schaffer

Tom McGinn learned long ago what community help can mean to a family. When Tom was 3, his father was diagnosed with throat cancer. The elder McGinn survived, but his illness strained the resources of the family of five children and two adults. Their Southwest Philadelphia parish, St. Barnabas, chipped in donations of food, clothes and money to help out.  Now 69 and retired after 47 years as a mechanical engineer, Tom cites the experience as part of the reason he volunteers with Philabundance.

Question:   When did you begin volunteering for Philabundance?

Answer: 2014. February I think it was, because after I retired [in December 2013], I didn’t have anything to do and I needed something to occupy my time.

Q: How do you like working for Philabundance? It’s a little bit different than what you were doing for a living.

A: It’s easy because you can’t do it wrong. Or if you do it wrong, they’ll tell you quick enough. I do basically everything down there. Because I’ve been there so long, some of the other volunteers think I actually work there. I think I’m friends with a lot of guys in the warehouse. As a matter of fact, one guy said jokingly if he ever had a son, he was going to name him Thomas.

I go once a week, normally on Friday mornings. Sometimes, like the Friday before Christmas, we were doing senior boxes. Every month, they make up 5,000 of these boxes, as part of a government program, and they put in – well, that week it was two different cereal boxes, a couple different big juice containers, pasta, canned fruits, and canned vegetables and rice, and they pack them all together. They make 5,000 of them and they give them out to different senior centers.

After seeing the video shown to the volunteers a dozen times, I usually skip it and go into the warehouse to see what they [staff] need. One Friday, they needed boxes made, so before the other volunteers came out, I made maybe 50 boxes. Because the Berks warehouse doesn’t have a cardboard baler [an industrial machine used to crush and compact cardboard], they send all their cardboard down to the Galloway Street warehouse, so there always seems to be cardboard for me to bale.

Q: Had you ever volunteered with Philabundance before?

A: No. I had contributed to them, probably yearly, for maybe the last 10 years or so, and when I retired, I went on their website and saw the volunteer page and signed up for a shift.

Q: What keeps you coming back?

A: I think it’s because of what I know the outcome of my work, what it’s doing. It’s helping people who don’t have enough food.

Q: How does volunteering with Philabundance connect you with the community?

A: Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about food, but I know that there are people who do have to worry about it. I see that Philabundance does really help a lot of people.

To volunteer on a Philabundance Friday with Tom or on any other day, sign up here!

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