I went to my first tabling event on my first Saturday as new AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the Community Food Bank (CFB) of Southern Arizona. It was at a community information fair being hosted by the El Rio Community Center in Barrio Hollywood. I was energized by all of my recent VISTA training and I was prepared. I had the right clothes, the right attitude, and the nicest of the CFB table cloths. If I could just figure out where Barrio Hollywood was, I would be set!
I had dramatically underestimated the amount of time it would take me to arrive at the event, but I was undaunted. I gathered all of my informational materials and rushed to find the event organizer. I found her hastily rearranging tables in what was an unexpectedly cozy event space. She showed me where I would be and promptly asked if I would mind moving the table. As it turned out, there were more tables than space. I was eager to make a good impression for the food bank and so I complied immediately, each of the three times she asked before the event finally got underway.
My supervisor at the food bank was considerate enough to send out two more volunteers to help with the event. I had assured her that it was not necessary- I had been doing my homework and I was confident that I could answer any question that came up. Thankfully, she sent them anyway.
Peter and Kathy had both been volunteering consistently with the CFB for several years. I was pleased to find out that they were both friendly and entertaining as I would be spending the next five hours with them. I was not surprised to find out that they were well informed about the CFB and its programs. I was however, surprised to learn exactly how little I actually knew. Here was the first question I was ever asked about the CFB,
Event Attendee: “Where exactly is the food bank anyway?”
Me: “Uh, it’s on Country Club”
I was not exactly exact. Katie graciously stepped in.
Kathy: “It’s at 3003 South Country Club, between 36th and Ajo. Do you or someone you know need information on how to pick up a food box there?”
Kathy is a rock star. As it turns out, so was Peter. For the next two hours I watched them rattle off statistics about operations without ever batting an eye. Peter helped a low income family sign up for gardening classes at Las Milpitas- the CFB’s community garden. Kathy convinced a woman to use CFB’s Caridad Kitchen to cater her next event. I sat down and started taking notes.
I learned more than a few things that day. I learned that every day the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona provides more than 63,000 meals to families struggling with hunger. I learned that translates into assistance for more than 225,000 people a year spread across 23,000 square miles in five counties. I also learned that every dollar donated to the CFB translates into four meals. I can rattle off statistics now, too. But my favorite statistic is that the full time staff of the CFB is doubled each year by the work that volunteers do. I learned that face of the CFB is not the CEO or the event manager. It is the dedicated volunteers working in the school pantries, at the farmer’s market, and at the more than 20 events we host or attend every month. The CFB could not reach the number of people that it does without their hard work.
I am fortunate enough in my position to supervise some of these rock star volunteers. Thanks to their tutelage, I am confident enough to say that I am good at tabling now. Maybe not quite as good as Peter and Kathy, but they gave me something else valuable that day- their phone numbers. If I do not know the answer to your question, I know who to call!