“If it starts going to fast or you get behind, just hit the red button.” -Ang

Who knew making lunch could be so fun? You would think the more lunches you have to make, the less fun it would be, but over the past two days I have helped make upwards of 4,000 breakfasts and lunches as part of my goal to complete 12 hours of community service each month in the city that I visit. This is only a small segment of the amount of meals the Second Harvest Food Bank has helped provide since 1983.


I found the opportunity by searching for local soup kitchens and landed on the Second Harvest Food Bank website. They made it very easy to sign up for a shift and show up to volunteer. I volunteered in the Meals for Good section of the Food Bank. “Meals for Good is a service that provides freshly prepared meals to early childcare centers, children’s after school programs, group homes, senior feeding programs, and private and charter schools.” On Monday when I came in, I was one of just a few volunteers…I had to scrape my car that morning (in Orlando!) and the consensus was that the cold weather kept some of the other volunteers away (apologies to the parts of the country that actually couldn’t get out of the driveway on Monday…). This provided me a great opportunity to fill a variety of roles and meet some of the people that work in the Food Bank and learn their story. I have met some amazing people over the two days of work.

My first day, I was placed on a shift under Ang. She put me right into the action. When you have a volunteer for just 3 hours, you have to get them up to speed quickly. She quoted my long arms as the reason to place me in the role of placing the cups in the machine to be filled first. Easy enough I thought. Nope. Within a few minutes I was hitting the “Red Button of Defeat” as I called it. This was a way to stop the production when I got behind. During that first experience, I was consistently hitting the “Red Button of Defeat.” I wondered how I could keep up with this and wished it would move just a little slower, but I was determined. It quickly turned into a game for me….and I’d have to say I got much better.

The infamous “Red Button of Defeat.”

When I arrived the second day, there were many more volunteers and it looked like it was going to be a productive day. I knew exactly where I wanted to work though. Luckily, Ang saw the progress and welcomed me back to her team the second day in the same role. My second day on the job, I only hit the “Red Button of Defeat” because I was behind a couple of times. It was my long arms that initially earned me a spot filling the sealing machine, but this was not enough. It took careful precision and the avoidance of any mistakes. Dropping a cup was costly. Ang made sure everyone was put in a position to succeed and she would not hesitate to move you, so I was proud to keep my position as the machine filler.

Although I turned the job into a game and received a lot of enjoyment from doing this, the real enjoyment was from the people I met working. I probably learned the most about Zola, notably because as she would admit, she did most of the talking. Whatever you do, don’t let her drive through the mountains as she will not exceed 34 MPH and may have a few tears on the way. Her family has 5 generations living! She cares a great deal about her daughters and her son. She certainly spoils her grandkids as any good grandma would do.

After mentioning my journey and the blog, Zola was pretty camera shy.

Just as I was, Shannon was a little quieter than Zola. She was more than happy to poke some fun around and I was happy to poke fun right back. She even helped me with suggestions for my workout plan as we somehow landed on the topic of lanky tall guys…wonder how that happened. She could immediately place any song on the radio to a movie and I think I was about 0 for 5 before she decided I was probably never going to get one right.

Ang was the leader of the area where I worked most of the time. She was as hard working as they come and she was very good at her job. Her efficiency was second to none. She truly enjoyed the task of filling all the meals each day and made my volunteering very enjoyable. Ang was always quick to share compliments across her team and constantly focused on others. I learned about her youngest son who is playing both sides of the ball in football and wants to be a quarterback. After telling me this, she said “see Matt I do know about sports” as we had talked briefly about my job and my love of sports earlier.

I hope the thumbs up meant I did a good job…

Could not have asked for a better experience for 6 of my 12 Orlando community service hours! You should know that for my final action as a volunteer on Tuesday, we ran the cantaloupe in the pyramids pictured. I did not hit the Red Button of Defeat once in this string of 450+ cups in under 12 minutes!