How Foragers Volunteer in Our Communities

When Foragers aren’t building the first cross-border marketplace, making a splash with industry innovations in Freightwaves, or having virtual fun with one another, we are, you know, regular people out in the world. We flex our D.I.Y. skills on home projects, obsessively hunt for the best tacos in Chicago, and volunteer with a variety of community organizations.

We’re far from alone, especially when it comes to giving our time to causes that matter. Every year about 63 million Americans, or 25% of the adult population, donate their skills and energy to charitable groups across the country.

For some, it’s an avenue to meet new people. For others, it’s a restorative break from a day job. For most, it’s an expression of gratitude for what we have and an effort to create a healthier, happier, and safer world.

There are myriad ways to get involved, but here are a few paths our Forager teammates have taken to give back and find volunteer joy.

 

Soldiers’ Angels: Dulce Carmona- Customer Operations Coordinator

Woman sitting at a desk writing

As a volunteer with Soldiers’ Angels, Carmona regularly writes letters to deployed service members.

Where do you volunteer? What does the organization do?

I volunteer with an online organization called Soldiers’ Angels.  It’s a group that supports soldiers during their deployment through a variety of programs. You can write letters, adopt a whole family for the holidays, or volunteer at military events.

 

How did you find Soldiers’ Angels?

It’s funny, I actually found it through a meme! I was scrolling through a social feed and came across a post from a soldier who shared his experience with Soldiers’ Angels. A family adopted him and sent him a care package that included this run-down, stuffed fish. In the letter, the little girl in the family said that the fish kept her safe which was why she wanted him to have it. He said that he carries it with him whenever he goes on missions and it helps him feel protected and cared for. It was really touching, so I decided to check out the organization and sign up. I got my first soldier within days.

 

What do you do with Soldiers’ Angels?

I write letters and send care packages to deployed soldiers for the length of their deployment. Soldiers’ Angels matches us one on one with a soldier, and once I receive their contact info I send an email to introduce myself and get to know them. I ask if they need anything from the U.S., if there are comfort items they’d appreciate, things like that. They’ll tell me their likes and dislikes, if they’d prefer letters or emails or packages, and we go from there.

 

How long have you been sending letters and packages?

I’ve been doing this for three years now and I’ve connected with three soldiers during that time. Sometimes it’s very active and there’s a lot of back and forth, sometimes you go awhile without hearing from them. It’s all about respecting how they feel heard and cared for. Once their deployment ends, so does the connection. It’s up to you and them if you want to keep in touch via social media or personal email.

 

Why do you like volunteering with Soldiers’ Angels? What impact do you think it has on the service people with whom you correspond?

I have close friends who are serving, and it can be very lonely and scary. Outside of their base, they don’t have a lot of connections. If you’re a soldier who signs up for the program, it also probably means you don’t have a big network at home that’s checking in with you. It’s nice to be able to keep them company and make them feel good with a little letter or package. It’s a reminder that someone expects them to get home safely. I think it’s also important to realize that there’s a high suicide rate for veterans. This is one small way to keep up their morale, let them know that they’re cared for, and make a positive impact on their day.

 

Back on My Feet: Danny Gordon- Head of Sales

Man standing with a marathon finisher medal.

Gordon ran the Chicago Marathon in 2019 on behalf of Back on My Feet.

Where do you volunteer? What does the organization do?

I volunteer with the Denver Chapter of Back on My Feet. It’s an organization that combats homelessness through running-based confidence-building activities and holistic community support resources. It connects people who are homeless with employment, housing, and other outreach services.

 

How did you find Back on My Feet?

A few years ago, I donated to someone who ran the Chicago Marathon on behalf of Back on My Feet. When I moved to Denver two years ago, that same person reached out and said the org was opening a Denver chapter. They asked if I wanted to join the young associates board, and I offered to serve as chairperson, too. It’s a great organization, I have a lot of passion for its mission, and I wanted to help get this new chapter off the ground.

What do you do on the associate board?

We organize various fundraising events throughout Denver and partner with a lot of local businesses to raise public awareness. We also participate in local and national events, mainly running ones like the Chicago Marathon, and work to recruit other volunteers. It’s a lot of financially supporting the organization’s work in the community, but also educating Denver residents.

 

Why do you like volunteering with Back on My Feet? What impact do you think it has on the Denver community?

Denver has a massive homelessness problem. I respect Back on My Feet because it provides a whole set of services that people really need, and the organization has the results to back up their work. I also love running and it’s meant a lot for me in my life, so I’m glad I’m able to do something I love and share it with other people. It’s also been great meeting other likeminded people through the board. We care about our community, and we show up for it.

 

One Million Degrees: Jessie Essman- Chief Operating Officer

Woman smiling with a camera

Essman at the One Million Degrees 2019 Back to School Bash where Forager was a sponsor.

Where do you volunteer? What does the organization do?

I volunteer with One Million Degrees, a Chicago non-profit that supports low-income, highly motivated community college students. One Million Degrees takes a holistic approach to student support. They provide coaching, tutoring, financial assistance, professional development, and other resources that help kids graduate and achieve their next professional goal.

 

How did you find One Million Degrees?

I was serving on Olive-Harvey Community College’s Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Regional Advisory Council when I first heard about One Million Degrees. The council cared deeply about the college’s Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Program, and we all knew there are great jobs and career paths in this industry; jobs and careers that don’t require a four-year degree or mountains of debt. I was at an Olive-Harvey event not long after we made the CDL (commercial driver’s license) training program a Pell Grant eligible program, when a woman from One Million Degrees approached me. I remember she was so vivacious and passionate and said, “You’re going to be a coach with One Million Degrees.” After she explained a bit more about the program and how it supported community college students, I said, “Yes, absolutely. This is a no brainer for me!”

 

What do you do as a volunteer?

I joined One Million Degrees as a coach, and I coached five students over a three-year period. It was amazing. The students are so motivated, and it’s really rewarding to be able to share some of my insights as a professional. There are a lot of experiences and exposures that working professionals from middle-income communities take for granted. How do I write a resume? What does my financial aid package or lack-thereof mean? What’s my next step to find a job? I’m glad I could support the students and One Million Degrees to fill some of those gaps.

After that, the organization asked me to join their associates board. We fundraise, hold events, share input on One Million Degrees initiatives, recruit coaches, and support development events like speed networking. Since having a baby and founding Forager I’ve had…slightly less free time than normal. But I care so much for this organization and they’ve really achieved a lot in terms of graduation rates and a growing network of support over the past 10 years.

 

Why do you like volunteering with One Million Degrees? What impact do you think it has on the you people who participate?

I’ve been involved in community service my entire life. When I was 11, I started a peer buddy program at my elementary school so students who participated in the special education program could fully participate in school activities. In high school and college, I continued my involvement volunteering with students living with cognitive disabilities. When I was at Coyote, I fused my college teaching degree with my logistics experience and helped advise Olive Harvey on their TDL curriculum and new building.

Volunteering is so important and fulfilling. If you see a way you can help, if there’s an inequity you can help to solve, why wouldn’t you? Don’t pressure yourself to try and make a difference in many lives, many continued small deeds add up, too. And you will learn in the process as well!

 

“You never know what positive impact you might have”

Virtual or in person. Long term or episodic. A professional passion or a personal interest. There are so many ways to give our time, skill, and commitment, so don’t be afraid to search volunteer opportunities in your community!

And if you need some extra encouragement? Carmona puts it best. “I think everyone should volunteer. It’s what our communities deserve, but it’s also an experience that you’ll gain so much from. It changes your perspective, it makes you feel good, and you never know what positive impact you might have on someone else’s life.”