Volunteer Spotlight: Patricia Crawford

Volunteer Spotlight: Patricia Crawford

Despite living in a world increasingly characterized by individual pursuits, the selfless acts of volunteers like Patricia Crawford, or Patty as she is known in the Oceanway area, epitomize hope and community. Her involvement with Feeding Northeast Florida shows how volunteering is transformative for the people we support and the volunteers themselves.

From Humble Beginnings

Patty’s story began about 15 years ago with a handful of people who just wanted to do good. She and two others would come to the food bank with a trailer and drive that trailer to an open field, inviting anyone who needed help to get food. They didn’t even know if anyone would show up. Their only certainty was the presence of need and their desire to support those affected.

Resources were scarce, but hope was abundant. Initially, they would just sit in the field and wait, flagging down people who might need help. In a short period, they went from setting up and waiting to regularly serving 60 families who counted on Patty and her team to be there every Friday.

The Evolution of Service

The initiative continued to grow. After receiving additional assistance from Feeding Northeast Florida that increased their capacity to serve, Patty and her team transitioned their distribution from the field to the parking lot at Oceanway Church. Here, they adopted a drive-through format that enhanced distribution efficiency.

Ultimately, they shifted to their current client-choice distribution, which truly transformed their service model. With client choice, the team could focus less on logistics and more on individuals. The more intimate and personal interactions with clients fostered a space where the volunteers could really get to know the stories and needs of those seeking assistance. These deeper relationships enabled the nourishment of their bodies and souls.

Knowing Who We Serve

One of the biggest lessons Patty has learned while serving her community is that you never know who will need assistance.

“I think a lot of times people think that the only people who come here are homeless or have made bad choices,” Patty recounted, “but honestly, it’s people from all walks of life who come through here.”

She continued, “You can’t label people. Everybody needs help sometimes.”

Why We Do What We Do

Patty went on to tell the story of an unexpected encounter at the pantry that made her particularly emotional. A gentleman had recently lost his job and was doing all he could to make ends meet for his five children and disabled wife.

“He was talking about how badly they were struggling and how they couldn’t afford groceries,” she said. “It just made me want to load up his car even more to hear those stories of all he was going through.”

She is also passionate about helping seniors who seek assistance, which she estimates to account for about 30% of the pantry’s needs.

“They are on a fixed income, and it’s just not enough,” she said. “I was taken aback to find out how many of them have to choose between the prescriptions they need to live and groceries. I’m so thankful they can come here and get food.”

The Impact of Volunteering

Volunteers are the heartbeat of Feeding Northeast Florida. Patty’s initial team of four individuals in a field has grown to at least 70 dedicated volunteers working out of the Oceanway Church warehouse.

This growth is a testament to the community’s response to the call of service. People have overcome their initial concerns about their ability to effectively interact with and serve others and come together for a common cause. The entire team’s experience highlights how transformative volunteering can be. On their journey from apprehension to love, volunteers become providers of essential services and, in return, enjoy profound personal growth and fulfillment.

Beyond Food Distribution

Feeding Northeast Florida’s partnership with communities and local organizations like Oceanway Church extends beyond food distribution. We actively raise awareness for food insecurity and provide additional services, including nutritional education, healthcare, and assistance in applying for benefits to those who need it. Our volunteers’ personal connections fortify our efforts to feed and educate the community.

A Lifelong Transformation

For Patty, volunteering with Feeding Northeast Florida for over 15 years has reshaped her understanding of what is truly important in life. It has reinforced her belief that the greatest joys are found in giving and serving others. Her story of growth, transformation, and the unyielding spirit of community service illustrates the impact volunteering can have on individuals, families, and communities.

Through the efforts of volunteers like Patty and her team at Oceanway Church, Feeding Northeast Florida can continue our vital work.

You can be part of the solution, too. Click here to start writing your volunteer story, or visit our donations page to find other ways you can make a difference for the food insecure in our community.

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