Volunteers honored by food bank

YOUNGSTOWN – They are known as the Second Harvest Food Bank’s all-star volunteers.

The many volunteers who throughout the year make the work of Second Harvest Food Bank possible were recently recognized with a special Volunteer Appreciation Day picnic. More than 120 volunteers, from high-school students to retired professionals, attended.

Michael Iberis, executive director, said last year volunteers gave more than 20,000 hours of their time to help feed hungry families in the Mahoning Valley. He said those hours equal about 10 full-time employees.

“We are a volunteer-dependent organization. We simply could not distribute 40,000 pounds of food each day in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties without the help …

“It’s just heartwarming to see what they do,” he said.

Volunteers help sort and re-box food for distribution, assist with the backpack and mobile pantry programs.

Iberis said in 2012, the food bank distributed nine million pounds of food in the tri-county area.

Rita Brady, volunteer coordinator, said the volunteers help package food, answer phones, go to events, and put together orders for agencies.

Brady said there were 1,400 volunteers last year with an average of 70 per week in a normal week. She said when there are special events, there are more volunteers.

“Each week there are at least 70 people in this building helping us do something in getting the food processed,” she said.

Tim Vajda of Niles said he has enjoyed volunteering for the past three years because he meets so many people.

”I know my volunteering is helping other people,” he said.

Iberis said the volunteers used to be needed just at the holidays and now it is all year.

”The volunteers help make our jobs easier,” he said.

The food bank matches volunteers based on their interests and is always looking for help.

The food bank is open for groups to volunteer from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Call 330-792-5522.