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Volunteer profile: Retiree serves more than 280 hours in crisis

A forecast of mid-April snow doesn’t scare Donna Mitchell, one of the Food Depository’s most ardent volunteers. At 71, the South Shore resident has logged more than 280 hours of volunteer service during the pandemic. Mitchell splits her time between repacking food at the Food Depository warehouse and venturing out to support the Fresh Truck, the mobile distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables out at low-income health clinics. When doing the latter, which is her preference, she’s become used to all kinds of weather. “Whether it’s snowing, raining, whatever, we’re out there serving people food,” Mitchell said after a recent volunteer project.
Donna Mitchell at a Fresh Truck distribution in the snow on April 20. (Photo courtesy of Donna Mitchell)

Donna Mitchell at a Fresh Truck distribution on April 20. (Photo courtesy of Donna Mitchell)

Since retiring from her customer service job at Verizon, Mitchell has made volunteering her “main thing,” she said. At the Fresh Truck distributions, she enjoys directly interacting with the people receiving food, often helping them with their “shopping.”
“That’s what I love doing because you actually get to see the people who need the food,” Mitchell said. “Shopping with them, talking with them, hearing about their hardships – it’s really rewarding.”
Since 2015, the Food Depository’s Fresh Trucks have delivered fresh produce to people screened for food insecurity at partnering health centers. We currently partner with three different health systems on the distributions: Access Community Health Network, Cook County Health and Chicago Department of Public Health. Mitchell also enjoys the volunteer repack projects at the Food Depository’s warehouse in Archer Heights. She likes the mix of new volunteers and regulars like herself, the joy in the shared community of helping others. “All you hear from people afterward is, ‘I’ll be back,’” Mitchell said.
Donna Mitchell, a Food Depository volunteer, helps pack emergency food boxes.

Donna Mitchell, a Food Depository volunteer, helps pack emergency food boxes.

Mitchell cites her brother as her inspiration in service. He’s often helping others in the neighborhood – though she’s yet to convince him to come volunteer at the Food Depository, she said. “He always says to me, ‘Are you going to do that thing today?’” she said, chuckling. “And I say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do that thing.’” That thing – Mitchell’s volunteering – has helped the Food Depository meet a rising need for food assistance in Chicago and Cook County during the pandemic. No matter the weather, she’ll be there packing and serving food for families in need. “I want to give back all I can, while I can," she said. “But believe me,” she added, laughing, “when I go home, I’m going to lie down.” The Food Depository has a constant need for volunteers during the ongoing hunger crisis. Please sign up today to get involved.

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