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This is How You Find the Silver Lining: Ellie Was Furloughed From the Theme Parks So She Decided to Spend Her Time Volunteering at Second Harvest

Ellie Flaumenhaft
Ellie Flaumenhaft

Second Harvest Food Bank has struggled to find enough volunteers during the pandemic to respond to an increased demand for food. 

WMFE spoke with Second Harvest Volunteer Coordinator Mindy Ortiz and volunteer Ellie Flaumenhaft about how they’re meeting that need.

Read the full interview below.

Danielle: So Mindy, have you lost a lot of your volunteers over the pandemic? What are your numbers like a year on?

Mindy: Absolutely, we are down to half of what we would normally have. So on a regular day pre-pandemic, you know, we could have easily 100 volunteers at the food bank in the morning. And we're just about half that now to run all of the different projects that we've got on hand.

Danielle: Ellie, I know you started volunteering after you were furloughed at your job at a theme park. What was that experience like for you?

Ellie: Sure. Well, at first, it was a little bit daunting, you know, going from working full time to not really sure what to do with all of my time. And I was a frequent volunteer at a another nonprofit organization that was closed at the time. So I did a little digging asked around to some of my friends where they like to volunteer. And that's kind of how I found Second Harvest Food Bank. And as soon as I started volunteering there, I just fell in love with the way that they ran their operation, their mission statement, and even just their already, wonderful COVID precautions.

Danielle: So what do you do regularly when you volunteer? And do you have a favorite guest or a favorite story? So far from your time, there.

Ellie: Sure. So I've done quite a few things. Whenever I go into Second Harvest, I usually handle donation sorting. But I also have recently started to help rescreen folks that are receiving our donations over the phone. And I've had some wonderful, wonderful people that one of my favorite moments is just when you call somebody and they say they don't need the donations anymore, they were able to get back on their feet. But they are just so appreciative and so thankful that we were able to help them during that time.

Danielle: Ellie, what has this meant for you? Because this has been a challenging pandemic, as it has been for everybody. But having that community right now, what has that meant for you?

Ellie: Honestly, it's made all of the difference. I was definitely in a bit of a rut at the beginning of my quarantine, I didn't know what to do with my time. And not only did volunteering, get me back on a schedule and get me back to even just sleeping normal hours. But it was just having other people there that were in a very similar position. And you could tell that we were all just there for the right reasons. We all were there because we wanted to be there. We wanted to do something with our time that made a difference instead of just sitting around. And it was lovely to have that community to be a part of.

Danielle: Mindy tell me a little bit about what the need looks like a year later. And just how people again can help out by volunteering and what you might need people to come in to do if they're interested?

Mindy: Absolutely. So pre-pandemic Second Harvest Food Bank was distributing about 150,000 meals daily, and that has doubled and we're not seeing that decrease anytime soon. So I highly encourage anyone that's maybe at home and looking for a way to help out to visit our website. We have a volunteer portal on there that is currently listing opportunities through June. Go on there. Take a look and see if there's something that you might be interested in helping out with we sure would love the help.
Listen to the full conversation, by clicking on the clip at the top.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.