At Feed the Children’s Bethlehem location, hours of work are poured into a common goal: to serve the community at large.
There, dozens of volunteers from Lehigh Valley and beyond come together to spend their mornings or evenings working hard in the warehouse. They pack hundreds of boxes full of canned vegetables, pasta, cereal, soap, sunscreen, shampoo, and more. The task is intense and laborious, but volunteers leave every session with smiles and a sense of accomplishment.
Despite the many operations and actions that go on at Feed the Children, a staff of only six people manages to handle the workload. This includes a volunteer engagement supervisor, shipping and receiving supervisor, a warehouse manager, and three forklift drivers.
Beth Baier is the volunteer engagement supervisor and oversees the operations of the organization. She has spent her three-and-a-half years with Feed the Children helping out volunteers and running the major programs at the facility.
“I run the Teacher Store, which is for Title I school districts, and Box Brigade, which is for packing boxes for families,” Baier said.
The Teacher Store is a recently-introduced program, created to assist teachers at Title I districts in supplying free materials for their classrooms.
“Normally, the teachers come in and ‘shop’ every Wednesday. Each teacher from a district can shop once a month. That opens them up to school supplies, books, binders, and sometimes electronics,” Baier said. “That runs August through May. There is no limit; we only kind of restrict general office supplies, such as rulers and calculators.”
Box Brigade meanwhile is the main activity for volunteers, in which they pack boxes of food, hygiene, and Avon beauty products to be distributed to families in need on the East Coast. Around one thousand boxes go out each month, with a lot of the supply being stored in case of a natural disaster.
As COVID-19 cases rose around mid-late November, Feed the Children was forced to modify its schedule. Fortunately, the pandemic did not affect its actions very much, and they are looking to revert back to normal operations as the situation improves.
“We’ve had to learn how to pivot. We had to figure out a way to do a contactless pickup for the teacher store program,” Baier said. “Turnouts for events are surprisingly good. A lot of our events fill up. Since we’re being more cautious, we don’t have as many events.”
One of the forklift drivers is Gilbert Grier, who goes by “G.” Grier’s work at Feed the Children takes him through the whole shipping and handling department. An average day sees him bouncing between the warehouse and office, taking materials to and from each place.
“An average day is just receiving the materials, whatever the donors donate,” Grier said. “Staples and Office Depot are our biggest donors. After we receive the supplies and put it in the system, Beth will request some stock from the warehouse to stock the store. I’m in the warehouse and office the whole day.”
Baier and Grier don’t have easy work, but they love their careers for the ability to help others and watch them positively collaborate.
“I love working with so many people,” Baier said. “I can work with kids who are 11 up to an 80-year-old on the same project. It’s so interesting how people who don’t even know each other come together to make so many boxes. It’s an awesome thing to see.”
Grier sees his job as an opportunity to serve the community and help others.
“My favorite part of the job is knowing that we are helping people when we ship out our materials,” Grier said “When we’re helping people in the community, that is everything to me. I just wish we could reach more people.”