Abbigail, age 22.
Host site: Lower Columbia CAP in Longview, WA
"I was in school until 2017. I was supposed to graduate a year before, but I had some medical issues, so I stayed back. After that, my medical issues got better, and I got a job at an animal hospital and was a kennel assistant for a couple of months. I really enjoyed it. I was able to get certifications and was moving my way up to become a technician. Then my medical issues happened again, and I wasn’t able to continue. So then, I babysat for my sister, who had a three-month-old daughter and had to go back to work. I have half-siblings, and their mom needed help, so I would watch the kids and take them to school. I also had a family friend who needed help with childcare. That’s what I did up until joining the WA COVID Response Corps.
I was supposed to go to school through Job Corps. I had a date ready to go; then COVID happened about two weeks before I was supposed to leave. They closed down and didn’t know when they were opening again. There was nothing. I had planned on this to start my future. When that didn’t pan out, I decided to look for jobs. I was babysitting for a while because I had kept my hopes up of still going to school. More and more, I couldn’t just stay home. I couldn’t just do nothing. The pandemic is scary, but I wanted to find something where I could help other people. I was looking through Indeed and found out about the opportunity. It sounded intriguing to me—how they described what you would be doing and the possibilities of how you could help. I was excited about it.
Helping people makes me happy. It’s in my personality. It makes the day more enjoyable to know that I helped someone out and that it meant something. I’ve been a big caretaker since I was 12. My sister was born with heart defects, and by helping her and her differences, it showed me how much I liked doing this type of work.
I’m shy, but I’m still a people person. I watched my niece a whole lot, so to go from seeing her every single day and then not because we have a high-risk case at home, it’s hard. I have to be careful. I stay outside—we turned this shop thing into a bedroom, so I had a place to stay away from my sister as much as possible. I can see her a little, but we keep our distance.
The COVID Response Corps is necessary because of how limited places are during the pandemic. They need extra help. Working at Lower Columbia CAP, we need all the volunteers we can get to distribute food and do commodities day. Some of the people we serve are experiencing homelessness rely on the food for the month, some of them are elderly people who only have a relative or caregiver who can bring them items every so often, and some of them are struggling to get out and get the food themselves and need food delivered to their homes.
I’m glad I found the program. It’s helped me out, not just financially. It’s helped me out mentally and physically. I go in thinking, ‘I’m going to help people today.’ It’s really nice.
Jacob, age 28.
Host site: North Helpline in Seattle, WA
"I’ve moved three times this year—from Chicago to El Paso to Seattle. I had been living in California for a few years, but I decided to move back home to Chicago to be with my family. I worry about my parents a lot. Though they take care of themselves, they’re older, and COVID cases are rising in Illinois.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I lost my job as an office assistant for a union in Chicago. Luckily, I was okay. I had some savings and was living with my family. Finding work has been hard though, and it’s been a stressful year. I’ve gone back and forth on my career path, and so I was hoping this year could help me define what I wanted to do. The Response Corps has been such a blessing, and I’m grateful to work as a volunteer coordinator at North Helpline. I coordinate the volunteers, answer emails, and walk volunteers through the warehouse. On the days we don’t have enough volunteers, I step in and take their place. We also do home delivery, which is just the coolest. We get to set people up with food who can’t come in. It’s been awesome to pack food that is both nourishing and culturally appropriate – kosher, halal, gluten-free, and other options. Anyone can come to the food bank. Just tell us how many people are in your family, and we’re happy to give you food! It’s been fulfilling to help our neighbors.
Our food bank is more than a food bank—it helps community members know that there is this backbone in the community where they can get food reliably. We also provide services to help people, including rental assistance, gift cards for the holidays, coats, and hygiene products. Knowing that there is a place you can go, three times a week, and be able to talk to somebody and get the help you need–it’s so important; we’re so isolated right now. One of my favorite things about North Helpline is that we’re a community of neighbors. It’s all of us together as one community, helping one another."
Rachel, age 23.
Host site: South Whidbey Good Cheer in Whidbey Island, WA
"Back in high school, I wanted to work in the fashion industry. I admired my aunt’s career as a fashion designer in Los Angeles and aspired to be as creative as her. My senior year of high school, when I was making decisions about where to go to college and what to study, I found out she had stage 4 ovarian cancer. My world was turned upside-down and I began to rethink the path I would take, with a deeper understanding of the preciousness of life. This was the most influential time of my life. I specifically remember going with my aunt to her appointments with a naturopathic doctor and registered dietitian. I observed firsthand something that I’d never thought about before - healing the body through food. I was so intrigued by this idea of “food as medicine” I decided to veer off the fashion path and pursue a career as a registered dietitian.
I moved from Southern California to Whidbey Island for this position at South Whidbey Good Cheer. Up until May of this year, I was living in Mendocino County, completing a dietetic internship as the next step to becoming a registered dietitian. The internship consisted of 1,200 hours of supervised practice experience and interns were required to complete month long rotations in diverse dietetic settings. During my internship, I taught nutrition education classes at a school district, worked with the clinical dietitians at two acute care hospitals, shadowed the foodservice managers at a school district and a hospital, and worked alongside dietitians at a WIC clinic and a dialysis clinic. After finishing the internship, I moved home to study for the board exam, which was the last step to getting the RD credential! While I was studying, COVID was progressively getting worse and I didn’t know where I was going to find work. I decided to focus on studying and was hopeful that the right opportunity would present itself when it was time. The role I have now with Good Cheer is my first “real job” out of school and with my credentials!
I’m part of this e-list service called COMFOODJOBS, which sends out emails with opportunities across the sustainable food system spectrum, including AmeriCorps positions. I didn’t know AmeriCorps existed before I got an email for the position at Good Cheer. After a quick glimpse at the title and description for “Community Connector”, I knew this position was a great fit for me. My overarching goal as a dietitian is to connect individuals, families, and communities to their local farms and food sources as well as address issues of food insecurity. This position was exactly that. I had never heard of Whidbey Island before seeing this posting, but everything about this opportunity sounded like a dream, so I applied, got the position, and moved!
My role as Community Connector at Good Cheer entails researching all of the services on Whidbey Island and helping our beneficiaries (food bank shoppers) become more aware of the services that are available to them. I also help with the day to day operations of the food bank. I’m passionate about increasing food bank shopper’s access to nutritious food. People who can’t afford food shouldn’t have to eat only packaged, processed, or canned food. They should have options available to them, and it makes me so happy that Good Cheer provides just that - extremely nutritious options.
COVID has completely changed my vision of what I want to do with my career. I used to want to work for a farm to table restaurant that highlighted seasonal, local foods but there are not many opportunities in the restaurant industry these days due to the pandemic. In a way, the pandemic has also shifted my priorities. I’ve always been passionate about addressing issues of food insecurity, but I didn’t know if I could fully support myself financially doing service work. COVID has made it clear that food insecurity is on the rise and we need as many people as possible working to combat it. What really stands out to me about Good Cheer is that they are growing organic, nutrient-dense food here on the property and providing it to people who can’t afford it. I’ve never heard of a food bank that does this. Some of the food is fresher than what is available at the grocery stores. It feels really good to be a part of something that is helping the community in such a profound way. We need that right now—more people who are doing things for positive change."