All in the Family
Peals of laughter echoed through FASWVA’s usually quiet Abingdon offices on a recent rainy weekday. “She was laying down those bread slices like some kind of card shark!” recalls Carole Briscoe. Carole is referencing the meal prep skills of her friend and fellow Harvest Home Kitchen volunteer Rebecca Carter, who is seated across the table. Rebecca laughs, noting that her occupation as a certified school nutrition assistant might have something to do with her kitchen skills.
Both women have been volunteers at the Harvest Home Kitchen at FASWVA’s Abingdon distribution center for years. They didn’t know each other before their volunteerism began, but they’ve formed a solid friendship.
Carole started volunteering in the kitchen about 10 years ago after her neighbors, who were acting as volunteer supervisors there, asked for her help. “I came up and helped and it was an eye opener,” she says. After that, she became a regular volunteer. She even helped start the kitchen’s Thanksgiving meal program, which continues today. “I like a challenge,” she says with a smile.
Rebecca Carter started volunteering with the kitchen in 2011 after a tornado struck the nearby town of Glade Spring. She set out to volunteer with the local Red Cross, but overwhelmed with volunteers, they directed her to FASWVA in Abingdon – and it stuck. Now, whenever school is out, Rebecca trades the cafeteria for the Harvest Home kitchen.
Carole and Rebecca reminisce fondly about the first summer they worked together making packed lunches for children. They also recall trying to keep the kitchen running on sometimes scant supplies of donated food. “There were times when we looked at each other and said ‘we’re going to run out of food – we don’t have enough.’”
Despite the challenges of running a kitchen entirely on volunteer labor and donated food, both women say that friendship, along with feeding the hungry, is one of the most gratifying parts of volunteering. “We’re very blessed,” says Rebecca.
Both women note the bonds with fellow volunteers, but also with the clients they serve. “You have these lovely families where you become part of their life and they become part of your life” says Carole. “That’s what happens when you volunteer here.”