Community Meals Manager Julie Harrison talks about her experience with the meals and looks at future goals.

How did you come to be involved with Wayside?

I first became involved with Wayside three years ago when my kids and I volunteered to help with food rescue at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market with Don and Matt. Because this was such a positive experience, I called to see if I could volunteer in the warehouse. Volunteering at Wayside was fun and rewarding, and I feel very fortunate to now be working for this organization as the Community Meals Manager.

What is your role at Wayside?

As Community Meals Manager I work as part of a team to ensure that all nine meals run smoothly. My background includes community organizing, and part of my role at Wayside is to utilize this experience to strengthen and expand the Community Meals Program.

What is your impression of Wayside?

What is most impressive is the how the staff, the volunteers, and the members of the Board all work together as a team, staying focused on fulfilling the mission of the organization.

Has anything surprised you about the work?

What has surprised me most about the community meals is the delicious food. I fully expected the food to be of excellent quality, which it is, but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and creative preparation of the entrees. Carly and her volunteer groups do such a great job in the Wayside kitchen, and the guests are so appreciative of the care that goes into each meal.

How has your experience with the meals been?

What I find the most rewarding about being at the meals is that the recipients are always grateful and have developed a real sense of community. At every meal there is at least one guest who takes the time to personally thank me for the work that Wayside is doing. Several of the guests will help with either setup or cleanup, and some deliver food to people who are unable to leave their homes. They are really looking out for one another, which is wonderful to see.

What are your goals for the Community Meals Program?

I feel that developing solid relationships with all of the volunteers and listening to their ideas and concerns will be the first step toward growing and strengthening this program. Ultimately, we would like to see all of our sites filled to capacity most of the time, so community outreach is an important part of this job. We are also exploring our own capacity to reach out to new areas where there may be a need for free community meals.

Volunteers play such a big role in Wayside's work. What has it been like working with them?

The dedication of the volunteers is so important to the success of the Community Meals Program. These volunteers are extremely committed to helping others in need, making sure they have enough to eat, as well as creating a sense of community at the meal. Each site has its own character, and the volunteers work hard at making their guests feel welcome and special. I feel honored to have the opportunity to work with such thoughtful, generous folks!