Volunteer Spotlight: Natalie Thompson
It’s that time of the month again! We’re bringing back our volunteer spotlight to recognize some of our current volunteers and the fantastic work they do in advance of our next orientation this Wednesday, July 19. My name is Sydney, and I am joining the Beyond Hunger team throughout the months of June and July as their communications summer intern. Over the next few days I will be highlighting some of our amazing volunteers who are allowing me to share their Beyond Hunger stories. While there are many wonderful people who dedicate their time to volunteering, I had the opportunity to talk with these individuals about their experiences. Thank you to all who volunteer for everything you do!
What initially began as a short-term endeavor to assist one of her kids in completing their service hours for a school project has since evolved into a personal multiple-year commitment for Natalie. Today, she continues to contribute her time and talents to Beyond Hunger in our pantry as a Sort & Bag volunteer.
Although her child’s assignment may have ended six years ago, Natalie said she continues to sign up for shifts because her time volunteering reminds her that challenges she may not face are still present and affect others throughout her local community.
“A lot of people who live in Oak Park forget how much they have, in terms of resources,” she said. “It’s a nice reality check to keep you grounded.”
While her time in the pantry extended beyond its original expectancy, Natalie mentioned she briefly stepped away from volunteering during the pandemic. However, she explained that once she returned, she was able to quickly pick up where she left off.
“When I came back, it was easy to just jump right in,” she recounted. Natalie explained to me that while the process may be different, she feels our pantry’s goal has not changed.
“This is not client-facing, but it’s still directly helping the clients,” she said as she continued selecting and placing fruit in bags.
Even though she said she usually signs up for distribution shifts, Natalie also listed our home delivery program and stocking the pantry as some of the other opportunities available to those interested in volunteering.
“There’s so much to do and so many different ways to help,” she added. “You can do it when it works for you.”
Overall, Natalie said she finds volunteering enjoyable because she knows she is making a difference.
“It’s really personally rewarding because, on a basic level, I think everybody likes to help,” she said.
While many of the volunteers we’ve shined our spotlight on come in regularly to volunteer, we recognize that not everyone may be able to do so, and that’s perfectly okay. Some people may come weekly, while others may come monthly, or even seasonally. For volunteers like Natalie, it’s important to note that there’s flexibility. You can volunteer in whatever role works best for you, whenever. If you stopped volunteering and are thinking about coming back, we will always be happy to have you. Regardless of whether you volunteer frequently or just once, you are helping us end hunger.
To learn more and get involved with our volunteering, visit www.gobeyondhunger.org/volunteer .