Giving Back, One Can at a Time
On a warm but breezy April night, volunteers walked into the warehouse of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Upon seeing such a large group walk through the door, the eyebrows of Sam Re, the volunteer coordinator, shot to the roof and his eyes widened. “You are all RevJet and LifeStreet?” he exclaimed, “I had planned for about half this number of volunteers coming!”
Luckily, Second Harvest is one of the largest food banks in the country, and Sam was able to accommodate the whole team. They distribute food to more than 250,000 people every month, which is 10% of the population of the two counties. Second Harvest focuses on nutritional food and distributes more produce than any other food bank in the country.
In order to foster a social atmosphere and encourage team bonding, RevJet and LifeStreet provide daily lunches to all employees. All team members are strongly encouraged to step away from their desks and computers. Around noon, the table in the office kitchen becomes a noisy place with team members discussing the important events in their 5pm to 9am lives. In 2009, the team voted to give up the lunches between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The company takes those funds, doubles them, and donates the full sum to Second Harvest. In the nine years since that vote was taken, LifeStreet and RevJet have donated $114,192 to the food bank. Second Harvest can provide a meal for $0.50, so LifeStreet and RevJet have provided over 225,000 meals to the community!
In addition to this financial donation, the team also commits to an evening of service at Second Harvest. This brings us back to that April night where Sam had happily accommodated the big group of team members and was explaining their task for the night. Although produce constitutes a large amount of their distribution, tonight’s task was to sort through large boxes of donated canned proteins and separate pop-top easy open containers from those that need a can opener or can’t be eaten without preparation.
The reasoning behind this is that the food bank provides the homeless in the area with ready-to-eat easy open containers, while those living in poverty but with access to a kitchen receive food that they can prepare. Additionally, the volunteers checked the expiration date of each can (anything “expiring" May 2014 or later was deemed safe). They then filled boxes with 28 pounds of food, weighed it on the scale, make adjustments as necessary, and repeated.
The evening was fun. The LifeStreet and RevJet team chatted amongst each other, occasionally getting interrupted by sing-alongs to the warehouse soundtrack, the pinnacle of which was a four part Backstreet Boys harmonization that made the team’s sides split with laughter. There was a constant flow to the center of the room to weigh each box. When each box was put on the scale, there was a second of anticipation as the reading rose through the teens, mid-20s and finally came to rest at the total weight. Although the food bank allowed a deviation of one pound on either side of the 28 pound goal, a readout of exactly 28lbs was always met with a small celebration or fist pump before heading back to grab a new box and start the process again.
Despite being sister companies, the LifeStreet office is located in Downtown San Francisco and RevJet is in San Carlos. The evening of volunteering allows the two teams to spend a few hours together and has proven to be important to maintain the bond between the two companies. However, most important is the impact that an evening of volunteering has on the community. After taking only a couple hours out of their day, the team had sorted 404 boxes totalling 11,312 pounds of food!
Feeling humbled about their efforts, the volunteers peeled off their dusty ripped gloves, and headed to The Office to unwind together, all with a stronger realization of just how fortunate they truly are.