We like featuring our colleagues at the Vermont Foodbank here on the blog. If you’ve called or visited the Vermont Foodbank in Barre,you’ve probably spoken with our next featured guest. In fact, if you live anywhere in central Vermont, it’s likely you’ve met or know Patrick Gilbert our Receptionist. Here’s his story…

I am the Reception person at the Foodbank.   I have also previously worked in the Development Department as well as being the Volunteer Coordinator.  In some respects, I am still assisting in a lot of those areas.

I see my current position as being an important one mainly because I am the first person that you are likely to see when you come through our doors, and, for many, that simple act can be a challenge. My job is to make people aware of what the Foodbank does, give them information, give them some food – and make the whole process as comfortable as possible.

Patrick Gilbert

Patrick with Judy Stermer, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, dressed in orange for Hunger Action Month.

I currently live in Barre and was born in Barre.  I grew up in Graniteville, not all that far from the Foodbank.

I came to the Foodbank in the fall of 2001. I first become aware of them when they were located in South Barre. At that time I was also working just down the road from them in a retail job. I would see many of the employees when they came in for lunch and became curious about the organization. At the very same time I was also taking a Human Services course at the Community College and had been given the task of reporting on a particular Human Services related non-profit organization.  I chose the Vermont Foodbank and that is sort of the beginning of the story.

A few years later I was working at another job in Montpelier and saw an ad for a Reception position at the Foodbank and decided to check it out. They had just moved into a brand new building in Barre Town and I was curious to see the new facility and perhaps some old friends. Once I saw it in action, I knew this was the place for me.

When I first came to the Foodbank I became good friends with the gentleman who was running the Community Kitchen program at the time, Richard Ludwig. He was a happy-go lucky kind of person and full of energy and humor. His kitchen was located on the other side of the wall from the front desk and he would dash in and out during the day, telling me all about what he was cooking and share all kinds of jokes. He always had lots of people working in his busy kitchen, but he sort of loved the organized chaos of it all. Sadly, he passed away nine years ago from cancer, but, I think about him often and am reminded of some very happy, crazy times.  He brought enthusiasm and humor to work with him every day, both of which are assets in the world of Food banking.  I learned a lot of lessons from that man.

If I could change positions for a day with another Foodbank employee, I think I would like to work in the Community Kitchen Academy. I have previously worked in a kitchen for many years and I think the act of teaching someone else how to prepare meals, while at the same time preparing food for your hungry neighbors is a very empowering thing to do. To see the face of a person who is now armed with the ability to fix meals for their family and the possibility of a job in the culinary field, to see the pride in that person! That is the job I would do.

The reason why I work at the Foodbank is the notion that I am doing something to change someone’s world, if even for a day. Hard times can happen to anyone, and can happen suddenly. When I send someone out the door with a box of food and information about network partners, when I pick up that phone, it’s both a humbling and gratifying experience. It’s not easy for people to ask for help. I hope that the Foodbank makes that process as stress-free as possible.

I have certainly had some challenging days, but, when I walk out those doors at the end of the day, I always feel like “we made a difference today.” That’s a huge motivator in my getting back in my car the next day and doing the whole thing all over again. I’m also privileged to work with a group of dedicated individuals that all feel the same way.  People who are all committed to changing the world for the better.

Thank you, Patrick, for sharing your story!