Feb 15, 2024

Volunteering is a family affair for sisters Mary Pat and Michelle

Volunteering is a family affair for sisters Mary Pat O’Connor and Michelle Niedbala.

The sisters, who volunteer on a weekly basis at the New Toronto Street Food Bank, located at Daily Bread’s headquarters, have been regular fixtures since April 2023.

Mary Pat has been a long-time donor of Daily Bread Food Bank, and both sisters volunteer their time with other organizations in the community. But it wasn’t until their retirement that they thought to volunteer together. “We both retired in 2022, so, I was really looking forward to having more opportunities to volunteer. When Mary Pat suggested the food bank as an option, it sounded like a wonderful opportunity,” says Michelle.

Born and bred in Etobicoke, it’s been important for them to give back to the community they call home, and to get to do it together makes it even more fulfilling. “I find it enriches your relationship with the other person when you volunteer together, because you’re able to give back together,” says Michelle. Mary Pat adds, “Whenever you’re working together towards something, that’s relationship building. And what’s nice is that we also get to know the other volunteers [in the food bank] for the same reason.”

Though their volunteer shifts are often quite busy, Mary Pat and Michelle, who have always been close, can recognize when the other might need a bit of extra support. Each sister will typically work in roles that cater to their strengths, with Mary Pat at check-in, and Michelle on ‘flow’, controlling the intake of clients coming through the food bank.

Since volunteering, they’ve seen a steady increase in client visits, which they describe as “mindboggling.” In fact, there were close to 3 million client visits to Daily Bread member food banks in 2023, and a record high of 284,000 visits this past November. What they both appreciate is that the food bank fosters a true sense of teamwork, with each volunteer and staff member coming together and helping each other in order to reach a common goal – supporting the community. This has been so important, both Mary Pat and Michelle agree, to continue to meet the growing number of clients who come through the doors.

When asked what has meant the most to them in their time volunteering at Daily Bread, neither hesitated to say that it’s been getting to interact directly with clients. “Not only do we get to come together, but it’s always great to see the people’s faces that you’re working with and that impact firsthand,” says Michelle

Click here to learn about volunteering as an individual or with family.

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