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By Tom Spalding, Volunteer, Boulevard Place Food Pantry

The motivation for Jessica Brown to choose Boulevard Place Food Pantry for volunteering hits close to home.

Brown, 26, a student at Indiana Wesleyan University and aspiring preschooler teacher, lives a few blocks away from the pantry. She took notice of the facility and was fascinated by its mission as a key community resource, as well as a chance to meet other volunteers. She thought it would be a good fit.

“I thought it would be a good idea to come over and get some service hours and just get to know some of the people who use this facility and those who are also volunteering in the area,” Brown says. “Volunteering is something that I do when I can. I think it is something that I should make time for.”

Brown says she has been keeping up with progress of the pantry’s renovation and expansion, which first began in fall 2019. On the day we spoke, she was busy assembling to-go food kits for clients. She also helped other volunteers retrieve boxes of frozen chicken that was being temporarily stored in the freezers at the pantry’s next-door neighbor, Hoagies and Hops.

Brown is amazed that the pantry has been able to keep serving clients in one side of the building (the original pantry) while construction was taking place in the addition. Little by little, she’s watched as construction crews doubled the size from 1,500 square feet to 3,000 square feet, added a roof, created a new front entrance and made over the front.

“The construction is nice and exciting,” she says. “Since I live down the street, I’ve been following the progress. I think the community is going to love it.”

Brown is volunteering one or two Saturdays a month. She is one of about 100 volunteers who work a myriad of shifts, says Amy Taylor, volunteer coordinator.

“We rely on the generosity of the community for donations of food and nonperishables, but equally for those who give of their time and their talent, which is just as vital to us,” says Cindy Brown, director. “Volunteers are just as important a part of the pantry as the walls, shelves and freezers.”

Volunteers, of course, get as much as they give, as Brown (no relation to Cindy Brown) discovered in January during a shift when clients were lined up in their cars.

“Due to COVID-19, a lot of people are going through changes,” says Brown. “Even this morning as I was passing the boxes of food out, it touched my heart to know that we are able to serve people because there are a lot of people out here who are hungry and may not know about the pantry. They may only get a certain income a month and ask, ‘Do I spend my money on rent or on food to help feed my family?’ I am very, very grateful for this establishment and to be able to serve the families and children.”