National Volunteer Month: Meet Kathy Erlandson
Kathy (center) at the 60th Street Food Pantry with Salvation Army employees Donna (left) and Alyssa (right).
How long have you been volunteering for The Salvation Army?
I started volunteering at The Salvation Army when my kids were going through Confirmation at our Church 10 years ago. I was a Confirmation Mentor and I took the kids to volunteer at the Prison Toy Program. It made a big impact on us all! It inspired me to look for more ways to help. I've been able to volunteer at the Toy Shop, Coats for Kids, Feed the kids and now I'm helping out at the new Food Pantry at the 60th Street Distribution Center.
What have you been doing to help The Salvation Army during this difficult time?
Before we even heard of the coronavirus, I had signed up to help out at the new Food Pantry through a volunteer organization a group of us Mequon empty nesters put together called RISE 2020. RISE is a service organization with a social side. We offer various service opportunities at community organizations such as the Salvation Army, as well as meaningful social gatherings, like cooking classes and educational meetings to fulfill a need for empty nester moms to feel connected and have a purpose. Unfortunately, we, as a board at RISE didn't feel comfortable continuing to schedule our members to go out of their homes during such a crazy time, so all volunteer opportunities were cancelled. However, I felt a need to help somehow, so I showed up on my own and jumped in to help provide food from the pantry to a community in need. I felt safe doing so with the measures in place to protect us. I never deal directly with the public, we wear gloves and masks and sanitize the carts after each use.
What inspires you to keep coming out in spite of the "safe from home" orders?
Most days I'm the only volunteer they have and we work really hard to keep food on the shelves, boxes ready to hand out and a quick turn around for the people who come to get food. It feels good to work next to two such hard working women, Donna and Alyssa. I know they appreciate me coming in to help. Most importantly, I keep coming back because I feel and hear the gratitude from the families who need the food pantry. They are scared themselves to come out but they have no choice. I feel lucky to be able to help.
Do you have any words of encouragement for others during this hard time?
Find some good in this terrible time. Look for ways to make a difference. At the end of all this I want to look back and know I made a difference. You don't have to go out and risk your health , you can donate food, make masks or write letters to someone in need of some love. RISE is not scheduling service opportunities right now but they are still making a difference. They already had one very successful food drive last week. This week RISE is collecting books to donate, after that, they are doing craft items. Find the good!