Philabundance Volunteer Finds Friends and Fun in Warehouse

Posted by Kali Hamilton on April 28th, 2017

For Philabundance volunteer and Elkins Park resident, Susannah Gale, volunteering at the Hunger Relief Center is a fun and impactful use of time during her gap year between high school and college. Recently, Susannah Gale spoke about her experience with the Philabundance team and why she keeps coming back.

Question: How old are you?

A: I’m nineteen currently. I turn twenty in the fall and am freaking out a little about the reality of being in my 20s so soon.

Q: How did you start volunteering with Philabundance?

I’m in the middle of taking a gap year between high school and college. I didn’t have a job and had made it through most of Netflix, so I wanted to do something more meaningful and productive with my time.

Q: Why did you pick Philabundance?

I googled volunteering in Philly and when Philabundance popped up it seemed like a good fit. I packed food for the Jewish Relief Agency when I was younger and I remember having fun there.

Q: How often do you volunteer?

A: I’ve been volunteering weekly at the Hunger Relief Center for the past couple months. I try to do 2-3 shifts per week, and occasionally do back-to-back morning and afternoon shifts.

Q: What keeps you coming back?

A: I have a lot of fun when I come here. Kali [Hamilton], the volunteer coordinator, and Damien [Douglass], the repack supervisor, and all the other staff are really great and so welcoming. It felt like I made friends immediately. It’s also amazing to know you’re doing something important and helpful for other people while having fun.

Q: Do you have a favorite staff interaction?

A: We were doing senior boxes [Commodity Supplemental Food Program] and there were fewer people volunteering that shift. The box build is done as an assembly line around the conveyor belt. Because of the light volunteer attendance, I was in charge of putting three different food items into the boxes as they came down the belt. Each box felt like a race. I was turning around to put powdered milk in a box after I put in the pasta and discovered Damien had snuck up silently and already put it in for me. He turned to me and said “you have friends here” before walking away.

Q: Do you have a favorite or least favorite project?

A: My least favorite is sorting food drive because of all the running around to categorize donations. It can get kind of hectic. My favorite project is anytime we’re boxing up food by weight. It can feel like a puzzle trying figuring out what fits where before it can go out.

Q: What have you learned during your time at Philabundance?

A: The fact that Philadelphia is the most deeply impoverished city in America was really shocking to me. I went to private school in Chestnut Hill and have been blessed not having to think about where my next meal is coming from. It’s a side of Philly that I haven’t seen or grown up experiencing. Knowing that this city I love isn’t taking care of its citizens the way it should made it more important to chip in here to do what needs to be done.

Q: How will your volunteering impact you moving forward?

A: I’m committed to Temple in the fall for college. On my first day at Philabundance, there was a group of college students here and during orientation we talked about how the number of college students experiencing high rates of food insecurity is quickly growing. Obviously, college is really expensive and students have trouble making ends meet. It was something I’d never considered, that these could be my friends or my classmates next year. My experience volunteering here has made me better prepared to say “if you need help, there is help”. I’m able to have those difficult conversations and offer resources.

Q: Any last words to volunteers who haven’t been to the Hunger Relief Center?

A: Get ready to have a ton of fun, there’ll be lots of music and lots of jokes. It’s a really great experience. When I leave here at the end of the day, I know I did something that has a quantifiable impact on people’s lives.



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