Q & A With Our Food Pantry Manager

Colleen has been volunteering with TEAM for seventeen years. She started in 2001 as a National Charity League (NCL) volunteer with her daughter and is now the manager of our Food Pantry.  The months of November and December are especially busy for our Food Pantry volunteers as they plan, organize, and distribute our Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday food. 

We hope you enjoy learning a bit more about Colleen and all she does for TEAM.

How long have you been a TEAM volunteer?  How did you find out about TEAM?

I have been a volunteer at TEAM for 17 years.  I discovered TEAM through National Charity League and began occasionally volunteering at TEAM with my daughter.  I then expanded my time, to once a month, then biweekly, to weekly.  Needless to say, I have seen a lot of volunteers pass through.  I have always volunteered at the food pantry, but have on occasion helped out the resale shop on sale days.  I have been anointed the “food pantry manager” or “guru”.  I think I was given this title by default as other volunteers aged out, and mainly because I know how to order from the food bank. (Ha)

How many hours do you work each week?

Most often I am physically at TEAM 12 - 16 hours a week, but as with most volunteers with managerial positions, there is lots of hours of work put in away from TEAM. 

You've been a volunteer with TEAM a long time. What keeps you coming back?

I enjoy the camaraderie that is TEAM, and that we are helping people who need a hand.   Food insecurity is more prevalent than lot of people realize. Through community food donations, and purchases from the Food Bank, TEAM can provide emergency food for a family for about $10.00 - $ 15.00 for three weeks.

Describe a typical day in the Food Pantry.

A typical day in the pantry begins around 9:00 am, or sooner if there is a Food Bank delivery.  Between 9:00 - 10:00 we stock the shelves, organize any donations that have come in, and sort produce.  At 10:00, when the doors open, we fill food orders from clients, pulling from the stocked shelves, sacking and taking the completed order to the waiting client. Around noon, the volunteers take a 20 minute break, as by now, they have been on their feet for three hours.   Since we still have food orders to fill, we are there until or past the closing time.  When we have processed all the orders, we put up any perishables, do some stocking for the next time, and clean up.

How many volunteers typically work on Tuesdays and Thursdays when TEAM's Food Pantry is open?

 We normally have 7-8 volunteers every open day, but on occasion, it can be less. The minimum would be four, and  that would be a tough day.  

What are your biggest challenges? And what are your biggest rewards?

I would say the biggest challenge is to manage our food inventory so that we have the food to hand out.   We get 60% of our food from the Food Bank, and their available inventory fluctuates.  I try to keep enough inventory on hand so that our future needs are covered.  Rewards: Knowing that our clients will have food to eat.

TEAM is a gold member at the Houston Food Bank. Can you explain what that means?

The Houston Food Bank categorizes pantries according to the programs that each agency [like TEAM] has to help their clients, beyond handing out food.  There are a limited number of food pantries that are gold members.  This status let’s TEAM take advantage of food specials, and reduced delivery fees, to save money. 

When you are not at TEAM, how do you like to spend your time?

When not at TEAM, I enjoy gardening, reading and following my sports teams.

What's one thing about you that surprises people?

I am an environmentalist.