By Bekah Clawson, President & CEO
I arrived in Muncie on a Monday morning recently to start my new job with Second Harvest Food Bank as President and CEO. I was met with a warm welcome, a staff breakfast, and lots of comments and questions. After I was settled in my new office, one comment kept coming back to me, “I’m so glad you showed up”. It came from someone that was probably delivering it jokingly, however, it stuck with me. I began to ponder how important “showing up” really is, especially to someone who has counted on your presence and maybe needs what you have to offer.
One of the things that attracted me to this job at Second Harvest of East Central Indiana is that the staff and the volunteers have continually “showed up” in the eight counties they serve each and every day. When this pandemic started some 20 months ago Second Harvest, like most nonprofits that serve people’s basic needs, decided to push through their obstacles and do whatever it took to “show up”. It would have been easy, I suppose, to have provided the bare minimum and to have called it a day, regardless of the need. When I saw the statistics that proved that through adding tailgate distributions alone, Second Harvest served four times as many meals in 2020 than the year before, I knew this was a place that valued “showing up” and responding when times get tough. Just in the short time I have been here, I have watched it happen. Families, children, seniors, and military veterans are in need and Second Harvest “shows up” with food or diapers or books, or hygiene items. They “show up” in small communities and in neighborhoods where people have a hard time accessing those items. They “show up” in people’s lives who are seeking to make steps to become self-sustainable and economically mobile.
I have asked the staff to each share with me why they took the job they currently hold and more importantly why they stay. The answers to the first question are all varied and are usually based on their previous experience or their personal situation. Inevitably, the answer to that second question is some version of “I wanted to make a difference in my community, and here at Second Harvest I know I am helping to make that happen”. That is indeed why they “show up”.
Some of the exciting ways that Second Harvest as an agency is “showing up” is through 20 tailgate food distributions each month in 8 counties that provide food and resources for residents in those individual communities and through 16 Senior Safety Net sites in 7 counties offering food to vulnerable seniors. Second Harvest also currently provides 39 schools in 15 school districts with food boxes to families that help connect parents and teachers through the Big Idea initiative. One of the newest ways that Second Harvest “shows up” is through Operation Full Pack a program that provides veterans at 5 sites in 3 counties food to help stretch their budget. Through the programs of Forward STEPS, Second Harvest is “showing up” in individual lives and helping to provide opportunities for stability and self-sustainability. Second Harvest is also able to multiply its reach through the 75 partner agencies who “show up” in their communities consistently and faithfully.
With these statistics in front of me I am proud and happy to be a part of an organization that is working so hard to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors. As I sat pondering recently the sheer volume of items that leave our warehouse each week and the number of donors, volunteers, and partner agencies that help make each program successful, I like to think that on the other end of all of these programs and initiatives are real people with real needs that are saying over and over again, “I sure am glad that you ‘showed up’”!