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From military to corporate to AmeriCorps: how one pantry coordinator gives back

Carol Lefler’s phone buzzed and she picked it up to see a news alert about the AmeriCorps program. The program, which places adults in public service work at nonprofits and public agencies, piqued Carol’s interest. After doing research about the program, she decided to put in her resume at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a partner with AmeriCorps. Carol now serves as the Food Depository as Veteran Pantry Coordinator. “I am a veteran, so this cause is close to my heart,” Carol said. Carol, who comes from a military family, spent 20 years in the Naval Air division of the U.S. Armed Forces. She flew DC-9 airplanes anywhere from Cyprus to Lebanon. “I went in for four years and didn’t leave for 20 years because I was having so much fun,” Carol said. After leaving the armed forces over 20 years ago, she joined the corporate world. But this past year, she decided to leave her job for a new opportunity in AmeriCorps. Now, she serves as the pantry coordinator at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital. Both pantries are collaborations between the Food Depository, Department of Veterans Affairs and AmeriCorps. “I enjoy the atmosphere,” Carol said. “We have core volunteers that bring love and devotion for veterans. They give 110 percent every week, rain or shine.” Carol said the attitude of volunteers can really have an impact on those the Food Depository serves. “If people who come to receive food have a good time, it makes it that much easier,” Carol said. “It is hard enough to come to a pantry, but if they are with their peers and those who also served, it feels like they are coming to family.” In Cook County, 13,000 veterans live at or below the poverty line. Of those who the Food Depository serves, 18 percent of households include a current or retired member of the U.S. Armed Forces. AmeriCorps is a part of helping the Food Depository respond to help veterans in need. Since 2009, 78 AmeriCorps members have served at the Food Depository. AmeriCorps members serve programs anywhere from school breakfast to veteran services. Learn more about our AmeriCorps program.

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