Carol Ann Brust – Volunteer Spotlight

Interview conducted in 2016 by Bruce Estes.

Carol Ann Brust recalls having her interest sparked in FDN about six years ago when Judy Dietz described what the organization did to provide needy people with nutritious food that might otherwise be discarded.

Judy was then president of the FDN and a whirlwind of energy who invested hours of her time in community service projects until her passing in 2012.

“I admired Judy’s interest in helping others. When she told me about FDN, I thought ‘That’s something I could do, too.’” Carol Ann says. She borrowed a truck from C.S.P. Management where she works for Jerry Dietz, Judy’s husband, and started a picking up food donations from around the Ithaca area. She makes her pickups every other Sunday morning from GreenStar, Wegmans, Tops and Ithaca Bakery. During the garden season, she collects vegetables from gardeners by hosting one of FDN’s Neighborhood Food Hubs. At the end of the school year at Cornell University, she is part of the food collection effort each May. Many students use any money remaining on their dining hall cards to purchase boxes of cereal and other non-perishable foods and donate the food to FDN for distribution to area food pantries.

Hometown: Babylon, Long Island.

Growing up: Her parents operated a luncheonette-style diner where Carol says she and her siblings got plenty of experience from working in the kitchen to waiting tables after school and on Saturdays. She has fond memories of growing up on the south shore of Long Island and spending her days off at the beach.

How she arrived in Ithaca: Carol Ann moved to Ithaca with her husband in 1978 to open American Visions Center at the then Pyramid Mall in Lansing (now called the Shops at Ithaca Mall). Their vision care and eyewear center expanded to have stores in Auburn and Elmira before they sold the business.

Her day job: She works as a rental agent at C.S.P. Management, 407 W. Seneca St., Ithaca.

What she likes about being an FDN volunteer: She enjoys FDN’s flexibility and how it looks for ways to adapt to a volunteer’s schedule. “If the only time you have to volunteer are a few hours at different times during a month, they will find a way to use your time. The people at FDN are easy going and fun to work with. The work FDN does really helps the community, and I like being part of that,” she says.

Memorable FDN experience #1: “I really like going up to Cornell at the end of the school year to pick-up the food students donate from the unused balances on their dining hall cards. It’s great to see these kids come out with armloads of food donations. They get a good feeling of helping the community.”

Memorable FDN experience #2: “Sometimes bakeries donate donuts, and I take them to public housing locations for the kids. It’s a big deal for them. I love seeing their faces. Sometimes the bakeries have expensive, day-old breads to donate. I get to take the bread to families who can’t afford a $5 loaf of bread. I’ll tell them how to use the bread for making things that will last on the shelf like croutons for salad and soups.”

Memorable FDN experience #3: I’m the rogue at FDN. I look for unconventional ways to get food donations to people who really need it. I’ll stop by the Jungle (an unofficial encampment for homeless people near Brindley Street in Ithaca) with food to distribute. Sometimes I stop at a Northside Ithaca rescue shelter so people can get a few bags of food. “

Memorable FDN experience #4: “Fresh vegetables can be expensive, so when I bring vegetables they are popular items. Not everyone knows what to do with things like kale so I offer cooking ideas and hear others sharing recipes on how to use an unfamiliar food.”

Bumper sticker on her office bulletin board.

“Well behaved women rarely make history.”