This category of the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards recognizes individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy, and/or resources to help an agency’s constituents.
Volunteers at The Little Pantry That Could
As guests arrive at The Little Pantry That Could, volunteers like Emily Phan are there to walk with them through the aisles and help them choose the foods they need for the week. Phan has been volunteering with The Little Pantry since she was 12 years old.
The Little Pantry provides produce and shelf-stable items free of charge on a weekly basis to anyone in need, no questions asked. Their volunteers do a variety of tasks, from sorting donations and stocking the shelves to working one-on-one with guests.
Since starting high school, Phan has served more than 200 hours and is a favorite among the guests of The Little Pantry, who often request that she be the one to shop with them.
Working one-on-one with guests is personal and at times overwhelming as volunteers learn about guests’ lives and struggles with food security. However, Phan is always able to lend an ear and give her heart to each guest.
“Talking with the people who come to the pantry for help extends my worldview and teaches me to be grateful for the things I have,” Phan says.
Through her volunteering, Phan has become an incredible spokesperson for The Little Pantry, and is always trying to figure what else she can do for the community members it serves.
Elizabeth Graham Pistole
Volunteers at The Dancing Divas and Dudes
At 13 years old, Elizabeth Pistole had many opportunities to learn teamwork, life skills, and achieve personal goals as a competitive dancer. However, her sister Natalie, who was born with Down Syndrome, was not given the same opportunities as there weren’t any programs that would fit her unique needs.
Five years ago, Pistole recognized this reality after experiencing it secondhand through her sister. She created The Dancing Divas and Dudes, a nonprofit organization that serves the special needs community through dance.
During a session with The Dancing Divas and Dudes, participants work on their physical fitness by improving their balance, technique, and strength. They also spend time learning and perfecting performance pieces that are shared at community events so audiences can experience the abilities and value of individuals with special needs.
Although Pistole is now a full-time college student, she still manages to spend around 30 hours a week scheduling team events and activities, as well as coordinating volunteers.
Pistole’s hard work has allowed for many people with special needs to find their place in society, develop the confidence to excel in life, and ultimately offer them a supportive community.