President's Column - September 2023

President's Column,

During a recent trip to Chicago, IL, USA I had an opportunity to volunteer at a local church. My best friend Jackie works for the Chicago Wolves hockey team. She is their Senior Director of Ticket Retention and Services and manages their season ticket holders. One of her goals during the off-season is to keep the season ticket holders engaged through different volunteer opportunities. The first opportunity of the summer was during my trip, and I wanted to tag along and help. 

For this event we helped a local church with a food drive. The Lutheran Church of the Cross has a food pantry that serves approximately 100 families in their community each week. Each year the post office does a food drive called “Stamp Out Hunger,” and a lot of the food is donated to this church. Sorting, checking dates of the donated food and boxing everything up is a monumental task, and the church needed the extra hands. This year they collected over 30,000 pounds of food. Pastor Katherine says their record year was 55,000 pounds. 

Jackie, her daughter Zoey and I were immediately greeted by Pastor Katherine and put to work. Once all the crates of food were delivered from the post office, a group of volunteers would go through them and sort them by type of food. For example, all cereals were put together, all canned meat, soups, pasta, etc. Everything was sorted. The next group of volunteers would go through the sorted food and check the expiration dates on everything and then box them up. We were part of the group checking expiration dates. We would take a pushcart to the main table, load it up with like items, whatever was filling up most and take it to the boxing area. Here we would check each individual item to make sure it was within certain dates and able to be given out to families. 

It took about seven to eight hours to get through all the food that was donated. Our shift was for two hours, but I had to tap out after about an hour and fifteen minutes. Even though my body was getting too painful and uncomfortable to finish out the whole shift, my overall feeling walking away from the event was a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for so many reasons. One, that I have been fortunate enough so far in life that I have not needed this kind of help, but also grateful that this kind of help does exist in order to help those who are in need of it. I am also proud that I have friends who are involved in efforts like this and allow me to play a small role in it as well.

Some other opportunities that Jackie is helping organize volunteers for are events for a Children’s Hospital and their annual “Move for Kids” event, as well as multiple Pet Health Fairs that give underserved communities a chance to give their pets an annual check-up and vaccinations. 

I did enjoy this experience with Jackie and look forward to finding opportunities for me to continue to participate back home in New Jersey, USA. I would love to hear from each of you on different volunteer efforts and experiences that you have had and how it has impacted you. Currently most of my volunteering efforts go towards the IADD. Regardless of the type of opportunity, I do know that I always feel better about myself when I’ve volunteered my time to others! 

So, two or three minutes, two or three hours, what does it matter now in this life of ours? Let’s work together! Come on, come on, let’s work together! [Lyrics from Canned Heat–Let’s Work Together]

Jennifer Thoroe is Director of Customer Service & Business Development for National Steel Rule, a steel rule manufacturer based in Linden, NJ, USA. She joined forces with National on November 1, 2018 after working in the industry and volunteering with the IADD for over 15 years. She moved up to NJ from GA in the summer of 2019. One pandemic and three moves later, Jennifer is finally settling into her home near the Jersey Shores with her awesome super-fantastic brother Tom and his even cooler dog, Kelowna.

She has consistently used her time and talents to bring greater value to IADD members, whether through chapter activities, managing volunteers, Board service or overseeing myriad membership recruitment and retention activities. For this, Jennifer received the 2017 IADD Cutting Edge Award, one of the Association’s highest honors. She is the first woman to serve as IADD president.

The President's Column appears in The Cutting Edge, the IADD's monthly magazine.