Volunteer Profile: Matt Savastano

Written by Kimberly Gadzepko, MANNA Intern

Matt is a chef who is originally from northeast Pennsylvania. He went to culinary school and has lived here for about 13 years. He is enjoying his life and opportunities.

Matt first heard about MANNA through a Mexican restaurant he worked at that participated in the popular guacamole event- Guac Off- hosted by MANNA. After an unfortunate job loss due to the pandemic, he started coming to MANNA four days a week. Now with his new and current job, he continues to volunteer between his work schedule.

Matt usually assists with loading trucks starting bright and early at 7 a.m. Following this he assists with labeling/stickers and around 8 am helps with food preparation.

“Usually, I help with food prep. I know that I can help in the kitchen and with the packaging it’s a good workout and I enjoy working with them. Everyone is very friendly. They are willing to help you with anything. I go in and 20 people say hi to me and know my name. It’s nice. It’s good to work with people who care about you and so clearly, they care about other people. It helps with volunteering work.”

Matt explains that the work for him at MANNA is motivating and inspiring.

“It gets me out of bed in the morning. I get there are 7 and I get up and do more in three hours than I would normally do during the day. It’s good to help your community and I truly believe in food as nutrition and food as medicine principle. Even myself, I notice that when I eat better, I feel better.”

Matt is happy to participate in helping at MANNA, a place that incorporates his own passions and ideals.

“A lot of the stuff I’ve done all my life at work I can easily apply there. Even with food safety stuff and knowing things there’s a familiarity with the lingo.

Matt truly loves the atmosphere and encourages others to get involved.

“I would tell people about what I do every day. I would let them know that there are people out there that need help and there are friendly people out there that are willing to do it with you. You can meet new people. I know it’s sometimes hard to get people to do something like three hours a week, but after volunteering at MANNA for me it’s super simple. It’s easy and fulfilling and makes a difference.”

Volunteer with us: manna.volunteerhub.com.

Volunteer Profile: Roberto Soler

Written by Kimberly Gadzekpo, MANNA Intern

Roberto Soler moved to Pennsylvania from Venezuela five years ago and works at the Attic Youth Center, a space for LGBTQ youth.  It was through his work at the center that he found out about MANNA. In the midst of COVID with a limited work schedule at the Attic, he became very involved with MANNA.

He has volunteered at MANNA for three months, coming in for every Early Bird shift Tuesday through Friday.

For Roberto, the best part about MANNA is the environment.

“There are very nice people there. It’s funny because everyone has their different behavior and background but everybody has a smile. Even with the mask you can [the smile] in their eyes.”

Roberto recalls what each day entails that makes it so special for him.

“Everybody has their own territory. During the four days there you can find a different kind of person. At MANNA everything is different [each day]. I enjoy all my days there.”

What Roberto wants to express most about MANNA is the people.

“I met these wonderful people like Micki, Kenny, Martha, Rachel, Beth, all of them are nice. I like that kind of community environment. It’s very nice. Working with Ralph, Chris, Phoebe, it’s very nice. Working with them is great. It’s my first time doing something like this and I really enjoy it! It’s not easy being in a working environment without nice people. For example, at the Attic, I feel great and now I found MANNA, [which has] a similar environment, and I’m fine! I don’t need anything else.”

The only thing Roberto would change, he jokingly explains, is the music.

 “You know something I would love to change is the music. I like pop music like Katy Perry or Rihanna, or Sia and almost every day I have to hear Elton John there… And it’s not bad but…okay!”

Roberto is a dedicated and passionate volunteer who has found his niche at MANNA. His impact and contagious energy bring so much to everyone he meets!

Volunteer with us: manna.volunteerhub.com.

A MANNA Client’s Newsletter to Friends

This month, we have a guest post from a MANNA client – Lou. He has been receiving MANNA meal deliveries for several months now, and sent this message to his family and friends after receiving his Thanksgiving meal. This is shared with Lou’s permission and excitement!

As most of you know, I’ve been receiving delivered meals from MANNA for several weeks now.

As an active client, I was one of over 1,800 fortunate individuals throughout the Delaware Valley who were eligible to receive their Thanksgiving meal on the holiday.  MANNA also baked 10,000 pies, and, from what I hear, they were all sold.

MANNA did a first-class, exemplary job of providing a delicious, bountiful meal intended to feed four people.  Every aspect of the service bespoke of quality—in the packaging, presentation and food preparation.  The delivery volunteer appeared promptly at 10:15 AM, wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving, with two large reusable cloth bags, adorned and imprinted with MANNA and Thanksgiving 2020 logos and text celebrating 30 years–filled with food.

There was a large aluminum pan filled with between 8 to 10 slabs (not slices)—some almost an inch thick—of tender, juicy, white turkey meat, adorned with green garnishes and a quarter of an orange in every corner.  There was a large turkey thigh basted or marinated in a tasty brine, which was in a separate plastic bag.  Altogether, half of a freshly roasted turkey was provided.

Also part of the meal was homemade turkey gravy, homemade cole slaw, four servings of delicious cornbread stuffing, seasoned mashed candied yams (delightful), seasoned and garnished green beans, whole cranberry sauce, a large garden salad with lettuce, olives, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, croutons and balsamic vinaigrette, a homemade bread box with four fresh Le Bus rolls, two large chocolate chip cookies, two large sugar cookies, a pumpkin loaf, and a full size MANNA apple pie with laced crust.

This would have been a fine feast for four people, but it kept me stuffed for four days.  My many thanks go to the folks who donate to this wonderful charity, or who volunteer in the food preparation and delivery.

This year, since there was no Thanksgiving Day parade down the Ben Franklin Parkway, it was reported on the news that some of the delivery vehicles were adorned with balloons and other decorations as they lined up outside MANNA’s nutrition center on North 20th Street, just off the Parkway, in the Art Museum/Fairmount District of the city.

MANNA gave me a wonderful Thanksgiving alone during this pandemic.  As they say, food is medicine, and food is also love.  Their outreach to the community with genuine love, caring, commitment and cheerful, due diligence is greatly appreciated with heartfelt gratitude.

MANNA, the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, greatly exemplifies and expresses the true Spirit of Philadelphia—the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.

I hope that you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and remain safe and well.