Kathy Simons – Volunteer Spotlight

Interview conducted in 2015 by Ivy Miller. 

“Nobody should go to bed hungry. That’s always been my philosophy.”

How did you get started with FDN?

I started volunteering with FDN in 2012 after responding to an ad seeking volunteers. Art interviewed me and asked how much time I had available, and what kinds of things I would be interested in doing. We discussed how FDN and I could be a great match. How right he was!

I have brain tumors (this is why I no longer teach), and due to this, I need to have a flexible schedule. So, after moving to Ithaca I was lonely and looking for activities that would be meaningful, fulfilling, and allow me to help others. At FDN I’ve been able to do that! Here, I’ve had unique opportunities to use my teaching experience to help others. I enjoy talking with children about how FDN helps to feed hungry people in our community. Meaghan and I even did puppet shows for preschoolers that did two food drives. The puppet shows explained where the food they collected was going to be used. We’ve talked to an ESL class, and after school programs that wanted to learn about FDN. I find this work very rewarding and enjoy sharing the FDN story!

I also enjoy helping on committees and the video project. I’m very glad we were able to create such a great documentary about FDN, (check it out on our web site if you haven’t seen it.) Meaghan and I will often incorporate the video into our presentations. It was fun working with Krisi to make over one hundred FDN magnets & keychains, and organizing decorations for the video launch celebration last year. I also enjoyed helping to organize our Pot Luck Gatherings and stopping in at FDN to make sure things are neat and tidy. When Meaghan calls me with a request, I really enjoy doing what’s needed, whenever I can. It keeps my role with FDN unique and fun.

What about fighting hunger and food waste made you want to be a part of this cause?

I grew up in a large family with an awareness of how limited our food supply was many times. Still, my parents were always ready to help others who needed a meal. My father’s standard joke when we had limited food was always, “put another potato in the pot!” He was a very kind & generous man and taught me to volunteer.

I love the idea that what we do through FDN, can really make a difference! It’s very important to me that we share our mission and encourage others to join us! I admire the individuals and businesses that help to support the mission of FDN. Loading my car with apples from the orchard or other food that’s donated is great! With everyone’s involvement, fewer families are going to bed hungry tonight and less food goes to waste.

As a result of my childhood experience, I started keeping granola bars in my car to share with the hungry sign holders at some of our intersections, along with lists of local food pantries and free meals from the FDN website.

FDN plays a huge part in minimizing food waste in our community. Growing my own vegetables in the summertime is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. Now any extra produce I’ve grown can be shared with FDN or others. College students that exercise Patch often leave here with food I’ve shared. Being involved with FDN helps me to fulfill my philosophy that nobody should go to bed hungry.

My experience as an educator also influenced my choice to join this cause. I witnessed first-hand how hunger affected my students. Long before school breakfast programs existed, I’d start the day feeding my students. Students who aren’t hungry can learn and concentrate much better.

Throughout my life, I’ve seen first-hand that people can be proud, and feel too ashamed to ask for help or fear they will be turned away. One of the things I really love about FDN is that we don’t judge; if you need food, its available.

Besides volunteering, what else do you do in your free time?

Besides FDN, I am also involved with the Brain Science Foundation, an organization that assists patients & families with brain tumors and funds basic research for a cure. I want to help anyone with tumors (or serious illness) connect with helpful resources in our community! I’m also a passionate supporter of Angel Flight Northeast (www.angelflightne.org), a non-profit organization that coordinates free air transportation for patients who need medical treatment far from home. We have had over 350 missions fly from Ithaca-Tompkins Regional Airport. Both organizations are close to my heart, as I have personally benefited from these services!

I also volunteer with my therapy/service dog, Patch. She’s also certified as a Cornell Companion. This group of pets and their owners visits children with disabilities, nursing home residents, colleges and more. Patch loves our visits to the Dryden library for their “Reading with Paws” program, which provides a non-judgemental listener for children practicing their reading skills. Patch will even tap on the pages if they stop reading to her. I enjoy seeing these children interact with her!

When I am not volunteering, I enjoy time with my family. I’ve been married to Donald (the guy that picked on me in 6th grade) for 32 years. We enjoy our Rhodes sailboat that we keep at Meyers Park. We have two wonderful sons. Michael is a nurse anesthetist and Jeffrey is a flight paramedic. Recently, both of my sons have gotten engaged. I love seeing them, and we try to do things together as often as their schedules allow! I also have two “Grand-Dogs.” During the summer I love to garden and walk with Patch.

I’m always looking for ways to add greater meaning to my life, and I enjoy helping out where I can. Some projects are limited like the Video launch and helping with the celebration of our film launch, or just assisting others complete the newsletter mailings. I welcome other ways to add joy and meaning to my days. I’m very glad to be an FDN Volunteer.