Food drive profile: Volunteers hooked on helping others

Mar 7, 2024

Warning: If you try volunteering at a Salvation Army food pantry during our Annual Food Drive, you might not ever stop. The joy it will bring you is addictive. 

Just ask Meg Zauner, a food pantry volunteer at the West 7th Salvation Army in St. Paul. She first tried volunteering there four years ago, and she’s showed up nearly every week since.  

“The staff and volunteers here are amazing,” Meg said. “You walk in and everybody’s like, ‘Yay! (Meg) is here!’ It feels great knowing everybody is happy to see you and that I’m doing a small part to help people. There is such a need here.”

Need indeed: The West 7th Salvation Army is the busiest Salvation Army food pantry in the Twin Cities, distributing around 1 million pounds of food annually. Every week, Meg joins dozens of staff and volunteers in packing boxes of food for hundreds of local households in need. (Sign up to volunteer.)

Meg loves volunteering so much that she commutes all the way from Mounds View – a 15-mile drive. 

“I love giving back,” Meg added. “The people and families here are so thankful to receive the food.”

Another volunteer, Dale Swanson, is also hooked on helping others. He serves two days a week in the food pantry at the The Salvation Army in Brooklyn Park. He and his wife also volunteer there for youth ministries on Sunday mornings.  

“We’ve found a home here,” said Dale, a retired maintenance professional for the University of Minnesota. 

He’s been volunteering for about five years. Every Monday, he spends two to three hours packing food into boxes. On Tuesdays, he helps give the food boxes to 100­–150 people who participate in a weekly drive-up food distribution.  

“We’ve found a place where we feel like we’re doing the Lord’s work,” Dale said. “We see people being helped physically, and on Sunday we see people being helped spiritually.”

Dale often serves alongside another diehard food pantry volunteer – Ben Perez. 

Ben is also a five-year volunteer veteran. He started coming to the Brooklyn Park Salvation Army after he moved to Minnesota from Michigan to live with his daughter, whose house is two miles away. 

“At first I started volunteering at the red kettles, and then I started with the food pantry – and now I’m stuck here,” Ben said with a laugh. 

He has made a habit out of helping others because he loves being part of a team that serves people in need.

“I enjoy the other volunteers here,” added Ben, who often donates 20 hours of his time per week. “And I enjoy meeting the people who come here to pick up food.” 

Meg, Dale and Ben are three of about 20,000 volunteers who give their time at Salvation Army locations in Minnesota and North Dakota every year. 

This year, food pantry volunteers are critically important because inflation is hindering The Salvation Army’s ability to serve local families.  

“Our food costs have more than doubled during the past year,” said Lt. Col. Randall Polsley, leader of The Salvation Army Northern Division. “We thank all of our food pantry volunteers for their help in keeping our food pantries stocked in 2024.”

You can support The Salvation Army’s Annual Food Drive by helping us unload delivery vehicles, weigh food, stock shelves, and more. Sign up to volunteer.

Other ways to help

Too busy to volunteer? You can also support our food drive by donating nonperishables, hosting a food drive, or giving a cash donation. Your generosity will fill the stomachs of people and families hungry for help.   

Donate food in the Twin Cities by dropping off nonperishable foods Feb. 29–March 28 at Blaze Credit Union locations, Morrie’s auto dealers, Slumberland FurnitureSchuler Shoes, or Salvation Army Store locations. (Download a grocery list of high-demand foods.) 

You can also bring food to the KARE 11 news studio, 8811 Olson Mem Hwy in Golden Valley, for a special weigh-in event on Thursday, March 28 from 12–6 p.m. Throughout March, KARE 11 personalities are gathering donations through their “Food Fight” food drive to support The Salvation Army.  

Donate food in greater Minnesota by dropping off nonperishable foods Feb. 29–March 28 at your local Salvation Army Worship & Service Center. 

Pop-up food collections will be held in the Twin Cities throughout March at the grocery store locations below. Stop by to donate food and receive free swag from participating partners.

Donate online: Help us feed local families by giving online. Your donation will be used to purchase food for Salvation Army food pantries nearest to your billing ZIP code. 

Host a food drive: Collect nonperishable foods from friends, neighbors, coworkers, church members, and others. We will send you a Food Drive Starter Kit that includes tips and promotional materials for your website or social media. (Read about successful grassroots food drives from previous years.) 

When you’ve finished your collection, bring your food to the KARE 11 news studio, 8811 Olson Mem Hwy in Golden Valley, for a special weigh-in event on Thursday, March 28 from 12–6 p.m.

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