April 9, 2019

Volunteer Appreciation Week – Driver Spotlight

When you walk into MANNA’s kitchen on any given day, you will find a team of volunteers hard at work to nourish their neighbors. Individuals are gathered in the prep kitchen rinsing and chopping vegetables, seasoning meats, or bagging sandwiches and fruit. In the front of the kitchen corporate groups, high school students, and social groups can be found operating the assembly line, making sure that each meal is carefully packaged and labeled. The kitchen is filled with laughter, joy, storytelling and bonding – all the secret ingredients to making a MANNA meal. And while the kitchen is filled with volunteers hard at work making sure that client meals are packaged and assembled properly, another form of nourishing is occurring on the roads.

MANNA is best known for the volunteerism that occurs in the kitchen so often the delivery aspect gets overlooked. MANNA volunteer delivery drivers are able to see first-hand the full MANNA operation and complete the cycle by placing nourishing meals into a client’s hand. Although the number of volunteer delivery drivers is a fraction of the kitchen volunteers, they are just as important as they are able to put a face to the meals that are prepared with such care, love and passion. Four days a week, individuals can be found throughout the city of Philadelphia, surrounding counties and South Jersey, calling clients to make sure that they are home to receive their weekly delivery. They become friends with our clients and drivers often request to have the same clients so that they can see how that individual is doing. They become an ear for a client to talk to and a trusting face that clients know will return every week. They become a caretaker, a helping hand to a client that cannot carry the heavy bags to their kitchen, and someone that the client’s relatives and neighbors trust. They become more than just a person delivering food and they allow for MANNA to mean more than just meal delivery service to that client. Our volunteer delivery drivers are the bind between the kitchen and the clients and they are the glue that holds the MANNA community together.

Volunteer drivers often go above and beyond to make sure that our clients are taken care of. One driver shared a very touching story on how he delivers more than just meals. He shared, “One day I went to make a delivery but a man wasn’t home – he was coming from dialysis, and so a few minutes later I met him outside his apartment building. We went upstairs to his apartment and I noticed he was wearing gloves that were so ripped, they were barely usable. This was in the dead of winter. I literally took the gloves off my hands and gave them to him. These were not expensive gloves, and I had more at home, so the sacrifice was minimal. But it was so incredibly fulfilling to be able to provide charity so directly.”

When asked what their most memorable delivery story was, another driver mentioned, “I talk with clients if they want to talk. A lady client collected flea market things. The items started to show up in her front yard all nicely covered by blue tarps. Month after month more and more items arrived. Then one week they were all gone. I never asked where they had come from or where they had gone. A few weeks after the items disappeared, looking into her front yard she said “That part of my life is over.” I hesitated, but then asked “Is that a good thing or a bad thing.” She said without hesitation “It’s all good from here on.” Another driver mentioned that she delivers because, “it is meaningful because it brings nutritional meals to those who otherwise would not get them and, in return, it gives me a warm and joyful feeling.”

Delivering brings joy and hope to both the client and the driver. We send a big thank you to our volunteer drivers for their dedication to making sure that our clients receive their meals each week and for putting a face to MANNA meals.