Even though David Cheeks started volunteering with the Greater Chicago Food Depository more than 25 years ago, he still remembers his instant connection to our mission.
“There’s something about the Food Depository,” said Cheeks, now 67. “You go there and they explain the mission to end hunger in Cook County. They make you feel part of it.”
He also resonates with the communal aspect of the work.
“I came from a community where we helped each other,” Cheeks said, “and that’s what the Food Depository does. It’s members of the community coming together to help the rest of the community.”
Cheeks began volunteering with the Food Depository as part of a team that promoted corporate social responsibility at the Federal Reserve Bank, where he worked in computer operations. He brought a group of his coworkers to a repack event every month, where they repackaged bulk products into family-size portions. Cheeks said he was struck by the immediacy of the impact these efforts made.
“The staff always emphasize that what you pack today goes out to the community tomorrow,” he said. “Then you see the (Food Depository) trucks driving around in the community and know that could be something you packed going out to feed your neighbors.”
In addition to repack events, Cheeks has also helped with food rescue, produce trucks, the Food Depository’s annual fundraising gala, and more, serving more than 2,000 volunteer hours in the past 25 years.
“I’m trying to think of what I haven’t done over the years,” he said with a laugh. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to help the Food Depository.”
One of Cheeks’ favorite parts of volunteering is introducing people to new foods. As he hands eggplant, beets, and zucchini to pantry guests, he explains why he likes them and shares ideas on how to prepare them.
Cheeks also finds joy in the relationships he’s developed through his volunteer service. He’s become good friends with several fellow volunteers and considers some of the young Americorps volunteers he’s served alongside like his godchildren. His Food Depository community has become like family, he said.
Still, his biggest source of fulfillment is seeing the guests’ gratitude upon receiving food. “I’m getting to make someone’s day,” he said. “It’s a great high when they say thank you.”
Volunteers are invaluable in our mission to end hunger. Join our volunteer community and make a difference for our neighbors throughout Cook County.