Volunteering at the Contra Costa Food Bank,
from a Saint Mary's student's perspective...

Saint Mary’s Graduate Business alumni , alongside friends and family, met at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties to donate their time on Wednesday night. Working as a big unit, volunteers from MBA graduating classes of '89 to 2010 were tasked with consolidating donations into boxes and restocking the shelves. The Food Bank sees greater numbers of people helping out around the holidays, but Pam Kan-Rice, '09 EMBA alumna, knows that “people are hungry all year long,” which is why she comes to the Food Bank with other Saint Mary’s alumni, whether it’s the holiday season or not. Pam is no stranger to volunteer work at the Contra Costa Food Bank, as this is her fifth time working alongside fellow Saint Mary’s alumni to help get food transferred, sorted and packed and eventually out to churches, pantries and food banks along the Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

This alumni SERVE event saw such a large turnout of diligently working Saint Mary’s volunteers that our two and a half hours worth of assembly line-style consolidation task was completed in just under an hour. The early finish opened up some time for a motivational speech from Mike Leary, a Saint Mary’s MBA faculty member of five years and the Graduate Business alumni faculty liaison. He highlighted some of the 2011 accomplishments of the Graduate Business network, including the 200+ volunteers from Saint Mary’s who have come together on 17 service projects, accounting for over 500 hours of service. Sporting red and white Graduate Business volunteer shirts, we felt like the winning team at half-time huddled around our coach in the locker room. It was powerful to see everyone come together as a team to get things moved efficiently, but the real satisfaction came in knowing how our hard work was going to directly benefit people in need around our community, as the Contra Costa Food Bank provides up to 137,000 meals per month for children, seniors and the working poor.

Despite everyone’s enthusiasm to continue working, we weren’t prepared to leave early, so everyone was invited to go along on a tour of the warehouse. We were guided through the journey that a donated food item makes from one side of the building where it is dropped off, through freezing temperatures, stacks and plastic wrap to the other end, where it is shipped off. Johnson Rajaratnam, a 2010 graduate of the EMBA program and a first-time volunteer at the Contra Costa Food Bank reflected on the experience at the end of the tour, noting how “the task of sorting and transferring, however simple they may be, are not only powerful acts of giving but nice changes of pace from the everyday working world.” As a veteran volunteer at the Salvation Army, Johnson enjoyed getting the chance to volunteer at the Food Bank alongside fellow alums. Ultimately, the event was a huge success and a pleasure to be a part of. The alumni took their work seriously but at the end of the day weren’t afraid to step inside a freezer that was 10 degrees below zero and give their best “we’re not freezing, we swear” poses for the camera. We were able to have fun making a difference. For more information on how you can join forces with Graduate Business alumni and make a difference visit www.smcbusinessalumni.com/serve.

By: Jessica Barbagallo
Student Writer, Graduate Business

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