Today we recognize Rose Joseph, a food pantry volunteer we learned about through United Way Community Builders in Fitchburg, Mass., part of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network. To find a volunteer center near you, visit the HandsOn Network map.
When Rose Joseph began volunteering at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Devens, Mass., about five years ago, she started as a food distributor helping clients shop for food in the pantry. It was a great way to help, but she found that she could do more good by putting her professional skills to use.
Her background in data analysis led her to getting involved with helping the pantry director and client advocate with their reporting needs, compiling survey results and other such tasks. Now Joseph is responsible for upgrading the pantry’s databases and day-to-day operating software.
She has also written software that enables the pantry to run more efficiently, which helps improve the experience for both the clients and volunteers.
“Economic conditions in recent years have greatly increased the number of clients needing the food pantry to make ends meet,” Joseph says. “I compute pantry usage statistics that help us better serve our clients and create reports used for obtaining funding.”
Joseph began volunteering at age 14, when she worked as a hospital candy striper. She continued her volunteer work wherever she lived.
“Being of service to others is an expression of my faith, and I have been drawn especially to efforts that battle hunger,” Joseph explains.
While in college, she was part of a group that aimed to increase awareness of hunger in the Boston area. Also while in Boston, she volunteered at the Greater Boston Food Bank and helped with the sorting and packaging of donated food. When living in Chicago she worked at a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, and in New York she did grocery shopping for homebound seniors.
Joseph, a mother of three, says it was harder to volunteer when her children were little, but when her youngest child started kindergarten she began helping out at Loaves and Fishes. Her children will sometimes assist her with data entry and they have participated in food and bottle collections in support of Loaves and Fishes.
“We like being part of an organization that helps people in such a direct and fundamental way,” Joseph says.
What is Joseph’s advice for others who may be interested in volunteering? “Just dive in and give it a try. It may take a little while but eventually you will find something that is a good fit for your talents.”