Volunteering Can Bring Unexpected Joy

by Will Espinoza | February 14, 2018

Volunteers are the backbone of the SHARE Food Network.  The core mission of the program is to provide fresh, nutritious food at the lowest possible cost.  Volunteers are critical to keeping the cost of the food low.  The heroic staff at SHARE does extraordinary work.  They are a small but mighty team of only 7 people.  Last year, they organized and implemented a program that distributed 1.7 million pounds of food to host sites from Baltimore, MD to Newport News, VA.   The more than 1,700 volunteers who sorted, transported and distributed that massive quantity of food were indispensable to the success of the program.

So, why do people volunteer at SHARE?  There are probably as many reasons as there are volunteers.  Clearly, they all possess a sense of social responsibility and mission.  Many seek to “give back” to those less fortunate than they are.  Some enjoy the community that SHARE offers of like-minded people with a social conscience.  Many young people volunteer to fulfill commitments that their schools require for community service, but, from this experience, learn the psychic benefit of helping others that stays with them their entire lives.  This is, of course, the goal of these community service obligations.

In fact, many volunteers come for one purpose and discover other unexpected benefits.  Take Jules O’Rear.  Jules is a scientist who studies viruses.  He came to Washington in 1999 for a job at the Food and Drug Administration.  In addition to his dedication to developing drugs to treat viral infections, he has had a life-long commitment to service to the community.  Upon his arrival in the DC area, he immediately began volunteering for organizations that focused on education, as well as feeding and housing the poor.  He has served on a large number of nonprofit boards and chaired the board for an organization that supplied 10,000 refurbished computers to young people in the District.  Not surprisingly, he found his way to SHARE and got much more than he expected.  He not only got the satisfaction of knowing he was helping provide fresh, high quality food to people who need it, he also found love.

It happened on November 17th, 2001.  Jules was volunteering at the warehouse and a SHARE staff member introduced Jules to Holly Ketchel.  Their encounter was brief.  Jules says they only spoke for a couple of minutes, but he was clearly smitten.  In fact, he spent the next couple of days trying to track down her email address.  He found it and invited her on a date.  She accepted and the rest, as they say, is history.  Both in their 40’s, they soon married, and now they volunteer as a team. Like Jules, Holly has spent her life serving others.  She worked for an investment firm with a mission to social action, which gave her a deep background in managing projects.  As Jules describes her approach to projects, “She would recruit people, keep the thing running, make sure people show up and fill in when they don’t.”

For Jules and Holly, volunteering for SHARE and other programs is a fundamental part of their life together.  As Jules says, “Holly and I are like-minded.  Volunteering is a lifestyle, a way of life.”

When asked what motivates him to service, he talks about the people.  “I’ve met so many extraordinary people, both fellow volunteers and those we serve,” he says.   He also describes the gratifying feeling when someone you’ve helped expresses appreciation.  “There’s nothing like a hug from a 90-year-old woman after you’ve installed a wheel chair ramp in her home,” he says.

Jules and Holly epitomize the giving spirit that brings so many volunteers to SHARE.  The fact that they found each other at SHARE is icing on the cake.  In fact, in appreciation of all they have done together for the organization, SHARE has arranged for a “pop up” Valentine’s Day Dinner to honor them and their love for each other.  A chef who supports SHARE has donated a dinner to Jules and Holly to be delivered to their home on the date of their choice.  Stay tuned to the next edition of the newsletter for pictures of this special dinner.

Here’s to wishing much joy on this Valentine’s Day to two special people, Jules and Holly!

This post was written by Bill Black SHARE Advisory Council Member, Jules O’Rear, and Holly Ketchel O’Rear.