Interview with Second Harvest

St. Joseph’s succeeds at its mission not only with the help of volunteers, but also with strategic community partnerships. Second Harvest Food Bank is a vital partner working as a clearance house for food distribution for 326 non-profit organizations such as St. Joseph’s; an association set up to end hunger in local communities. Second Harvest provides approximately 35% of the food supplied to St. Joseph’s Food and Nutrient program.

Here, Cindy McCown—Director at Second Harvest Food Bank—shares about the importance of relationship at the partnership level as well as the personal.

“It’s all about relationships,” says McCown.

“The [important relationship is] between the food bank and organizations such as St. Joseph’s [who are] able to respond to the need,” continues McCown, “They, in turn, are critically important to the fabric of communities because they have relationships within the community with individuals and families who are seeking assistance.”

These partnerships are part of what makes Cindy’s work both challenging and rewarding.

I love having a challenge and stepping back and saying, “What can we do to solve this problem?’” explains McCown.

What got McCown into this type of help? Cindy would help out migrant workers when she first got out of graduate school. She loved it so much, that she decided to continue helping around communities near her.

She explains, “Did I ever think I would be doing this out of graduate school? No. I used to work with migrant families… and I realized that I really liked that. When I came to the food bank, I never thought I’d be there that long, but what… has made me stay is that it’s ever changing. We are constantly looking at how we can have that broader impact.[And with our partnerships,] we are never doing it alone.”

While Cindy finds personal purpose in having a “broader impact”, she also sees great value in the smaller, more personal aspects of her work with partners such as St. Joseph’s.

“It may be as simple as [getting] a load of watermelons… and at first we thought it was a curse. They were so huge and it was so hot, it was like a 100 degrees out, and then we called some agencies, and they said, ‘Oh this is wonderful.’ There is great joy in knowing they would have been dumped but we saved them. It’s very tangible; you can see the result of your labor,” states McCown

Challenges we face for 2011…

Cindy says that, “Last year we had record high numbers for people seeking help with food assistance”. With help from the Economic Recovery Funds, Second Harvest was able accommodate the increase in need. It was only possible to receive these funds when agencies like St. Joseph’s who were willing to work together to muddle through the administrative processes it took to take advantage of these monies. This work paid off last year but this year it will not be available. “The reality is we are just trying to meet the immediate needs. As we go into the winter months it will be difficult. Anything people can do would be helpful.”

Even with all these challenges, Cindy has the best attitude one could ask for when it comes to helping out. Even though she is one person, she is and will continue to make a difference. She loves what she does.

“The small things make your day,” says McCown.

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“So many times you feel helpless on what to do to help others, volunteering and donating to SJFC makes me feel less helpless and that I am making a difference in someone else’s life.”~ Cindy

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    “You are wonderful. My son is in town to visit me and you made it possible for me to cook him a meal. It made me feel good to be able to do that for him. It made him feel like old times.” ~ Brenda (homeless)