It was an evening of celebration to recognize the hard work of volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure everyone in the community has the healthy food they need.
On Saturday, Burlington’s premier charity organization People Helping People held a Volunteer Appreciation Event at Tuscan Kitchen to honor the roughly 75 volunteers who give their time each week to work at the Burlington Food Pantry and/or the Community Garden.
“They deserve a lot of celebration and a lot of them don’t feel like they need recognition but I think it’s good for morale and to encourage the friendship and camaraderie between volunteers,” said Food Pantry Manager Julie Lewis.
Lewis said the service the pantry provides would not be possible without their volunteers.
“It’s a huge effort every single week,” she said. “There is just no way we could feed hundreds of people if we didn’t have these volunteers that give their time. What’s really cool is that everyone has their talents and they bring them to the pantry. It’s great we can utilize a diverse group of people doing what they do well to benefit the pantry.”
Pantry Director Jim Sheridan agrees with Lewis.
“The work they do is phenomenal and we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without them,” he said. “The amount of work they put in and their dedication is mind boggling to me.”
During the event the organization highlighted the work of five volunteers who stood out for their exemplary service and awarded one Volunteer of the Year.
The five volunteers who were honored for exemplary service were Catherine Gillespie, Scott Salvidio, Carlo and Nadia Albano and Janet Hsu. The Volunteer of the Year was Master Gardener Peter Coppola.
Coppola has been the driving force behind the Community Garden that supplies the pantry with fresh vegetables, some fruits, herbs and other foods throughout the growing and harvesting season. So far this year the garden has yielded close to 1,000 pounds of food for the pantry with plans on tripling that number by the end of the season. It’s a lot of hard work but it helps clients of the pantry have fresh and healthy options.
“Peter does an incredible job,” Sheridan said. “I wouldn’t even venture a guess of how many hours he’s put in but it’s close to a full time job. He’s up at the garden every day, whether it’s watering, weeding or harvesting – he does a phenomenal job for us. They have a goal of 3,000 pounds of food for the year which is a lofty goal but they’re on track.”
“Peter is incredible,” Lewis said. “He’s really a true master gardener though he doesn’t like us to call him that because he thinks it might be intimidating to the other volunteers. But he knows gardening inside and out and he helped the garden become what it is today and when it started as just a piece of land. It wouldn’t be what it is without him. He probably puts in the most hours of any volunteers so it’s pretty incredible.”
Finally, both pantry leaders said they thought the Volunteer Appreciation Event was a success. Along with food donated by Tuscan Kitchen they were able to give their honored volunteers gift baskets with funds donated by Elite Realty Experts and give out table centerpieces donated by A Whole Bunch Flower Market.
“I thought it went really well,” Lewis said. “It was very well attended and we got a lot of feedback from volunteers thanking us for putting on a party for them. The Tuscan Kitchen did a really good job with the food. It was celebratory and really fun.”