A sense of accomplishment: Volunteering has been rewarding for Riverland student

Published 4:43 am Thursday, November 28, 2013

Volunteer Danielle Mork sorts and stacks food at the Salvation Army’s food shelf. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Volunteer Danielle Mork sorts and stacks food at the Salvation Army’s food shelf. — Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Danielle Mork hurried back from the overstock room with another load of food.

“It’s never slow,” she said. “There’s always something to do.”

The need has grown, and about as fast as Mork and another volunteer could stock the food shelf at the Austin Salvation Army, residents swept the room clean and took items home to their struggling families.

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“Today alone we’ve stocked the food shelf probably three times,” Mork said at about 1:30 p.m. last Friday.

“The amount of food is just crazy. I never would have expected there would be that much that goes into a food shelf.”

Caseworker Lori Espe is grateful that people like Mork take the initiative to help out. The need is extreme.

“We have some really good volunteers that help us out,” Espe said. “I don’t know what I would do without everybody. This is a job I would definitely not want to do alone.”

Mork would continue to follow the hungry rush into the afternoon and on following days as needed. Four more tons of food showed up at the building on Monday.

Mork, from Dexter, admits she was a little oblivious about the local hunger situation, that there was a food shelf in Austin and that people fall on hard times for all sorts of reasons. But through volunteering, she has a little more compassion for people and a new appreciation for helping those in need. As far as she can recall, it’s a new experience for herself.

“This is the first one that I’ve participated in,” Mork said about structured volunteer programs.

Mork, a student at Riverland Community College in Austin, has volunteered since mid-October through the DEEDS program, which stands for Dedication, Education, Empowerment, Diversity and Services. For Mork and others in the program, it’s sort of a crash course in human services, and Mork is getting plenty of one-on-one encounters with people who don’t have the happiest stories. Some have lost their jobs or can’t afford to feed their children. Some have social security issues, while others may have compounding medical bills. Some are simply underemployed. It’s something different with every family or individual — something different every time Mork walks through the doors.

“No two stories are the same from the families I have talked to,” she said.

Of course, Mork wanted to satisfy the college requirements and gain some experience in her field.

“It’s nice to have that background of working with different varieties of people,” she said.

Yet, there was something about filling a community need — making a difference — that beckoned to her too.

“That was kind of my main reason for wanting to do it,” Mork said.

However, she didn’t think some volunteer opportunities would be that enjoyable, especially this one. After all, she shuttles canned corn, fruit cups and boxed dinners from one cramped room to another. That could grow pretty monotonous, but Mork is viewing the task as more than a simple routine.

“At first, I didn’t think it would be something I would completely enjoy, but I really do,” she said. “At the end of the day, even though it may not be the funnest job in the world, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. You feel like you’ve done something.”