FDN volunteers help BJM become a neighborhood food distribution hub

By ELENA FLASH, October 2021

Partner background:

Beverly J Martin is a public elementary school in downtown Ithaca with an enrollment of about 280 students. Vicky Flavin is a certified special education teacher who works one on one with special needs students. She has lived in Ithaca for over 30 years and has worked at BJM for about 10 years. She has been an FDN volunteer for about two years.  In addition to the BJM partnership, Vicky  does a once per month shift picking up food at Tops and Ithaca Bakery. 

How did BJM get involved with FDN?

Vicky is the inspiration behind this collaboration. As a volunteer at FDN, she saw the bounty of food available and knew the needs of her school community. Especially during the pandemic, she recognized that many families would benefit from a food distribution hub. 

How does the collaboration work?

Every Monday, an FDN volunteer brings 2 boxes of produce, 2 boxes of bread products and 2 boxes of prepared food to BJM. He leaves them at the front office for Vicky. She sets up a table under a tent outside the main entrance during dismissal. As parents, grandparents, and caregivers, pick up the children, they can take whatever they can use. Typically, about 10-15 families participate. Anything left is distributed to the staff. Everything is used. Vicky engages with everyone encouraging them to take the produce and products. 

The week of the interview there were 2 large boxes of grapes from Wegmans which were very popular: The kids and parents said: “This is wonderful”; “These are amazing.” 

During the pandemic shut down, the food hub could not operate in person, but that did not stop the food distribution.  While many teachers were busy with on-line teaching responsibilities, Vicky did not have any work because she could not see her students. With her knowledge of the school community and through referrals from the teachers and counselors, Vicky developed a list of families who might benefit from a home food delivery service. She called every family, went to the FDN center, packed boxes and delivered to the homes.  This project continued for about 6 months until there was no more need. Vicky says she felt good to be out in the community and finding ways to be working and useful – even when she could not be in the classroom or helping with the remote instruction.  

What do you enjoy about being an FDN partner?

“I really like helping people. I just wish I could do more.” To inspire us Vicky says: “When I see a need, I try to take care of it.”

Volunteer spotlight: Bob Delaney

To make the BJM Partnership work, we need an FDN volunteer to deliver the food to the school. Bob fills that role. Bob, a 1987 Cornell graduate, moved back to Ithaca with his wife Michelle in 1992. Michelle was 8 months pregnant with their second daughter. At the time, he worked for what was then National Cash Register on South Hill. He still works part time for the successor to NCR as an engineering consultant, and that daughter is 28 and has a sister who is 32.

With a reduced work life, Bob wanted to do something to help people – something he did not have time for while working full time. He has a minivan with lots of room to accommodate one of his daughter’s wheelchairs and thought FDN might be a good fit. He signed on in April as the COVID lockdown lifted; at first just taking substitute shifts and then signing up for regular pickups. He currently has three regular pickup and delivery runs. 

For the BJM partnership, Bob goes to the Wegmans’ dock on Monday mornings. He collects 2 boxes of bread products, 2 boxes of produce, and 2 boxes of prepared foods. He sets these aside from the other Wegmans’ donations which are taken to the FDN warehouse. Bob takes the BJM collection to the school and leaves them with a secretary. Because of COVID restrictions, he is not able to enter the building. 

Bob has found his FDN volunteer work everything he wanted in a volunteer opportunity. His most memorable experience was his first encounter with the organization on the weekend after the 4th of July. He helped on the Wegmans’ dock and reports that he had never seen so many hot dog and hamburger rolls in his life. He is not as involved in the delivery side of the organization, and he’s always amazed when he is back at FDN and sees that every food donation is gone. “They are doing an amazing job at that end. It seems that nothing is going to waste.”

Bob offers this inspiring message for us: “I am lucky to live in a community like this that has a place like FDN that helps people in need. Hopefully, I can do this for years to come.”