Hunger is a pervasive issue around the world and in San Francisco, where homelessness is chronically present, it is an issue that affects the local community on a daily basis. For IA Interior Architects’ San Francisco office, this was the target of its 30th anniversary charity work. Rather than simply serving at a soup kitchen, the Bay Area team of volunteers experienced the chain of supply first-hand by dividing its volunteer hours between the San Francisco/Marin Food Bank, which sources, packages, and distributes food to local non-profits, and Glide Church, which serves free meals to San Francisco’s hungry three times a day, 365 days a year.
“With SF Food Bank, you’re packing lots of food but you don’t really engage with those you serve,” says Colin O’Malley, a project manager in IA’s San Francisco office who organized the events. “I usually volunteer at Glide and serve food, so it was a nice follow up to packaging at SF Food Bank.”
At SF Food Bank, a team of 11 IA volunteers donated 33 hours of work over a two-day period. “When you look at food security, the most costly part is produce, and the other food banks can’t distribute produce because they don’t have the volunteers we do to sort in time—otherwise it rots,” explains Sean Rosas, manager of volunteer services at SF Food Bank. “Through our ‘farm to family’ program, we have millions of pounds to box, sort, and clean.” He credits the agency’s flexibility to distribute fresh fruit and vegetables so efficiently to the large number of volunteers that power its sorting line.
“I was happy to collect food sources for an important purpose,” says Rachelle Ayung, a contracts administrator at IA. “Knowing in the back of my mind that the people and families we were helping would only be receiving their daily serving of fresh fruit and vegetables through our efforts also made the experience rewarding.”
Though the IA team didn’t interface directly with the beneficiaries of SF/Marin Food Bank, Rosas says he hopes groups walk away knowing the impact they have. “What IA brings is an eye for how we’re designed as an agency, and we couldn’t accomplish our mission without corporate engagement.”
The following weekend, IA volunteered at Glide Church in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. “The team served approximately 800 meals at breakfast—quite a feat!” says Ben Rosenfield, institutional giving manager at Glide. The team split into two groups; one in back of the house, one interacting with the diners.
“The homeless and needy are often the people we walk by every day and avoid, and who are avoided and ignored, but this experience confronted that directly,” says Mary Lee Duff, director of workplace strategies. “I felt that we were part of a truly meaningful and direct outreach.”
But helping those in immediate need is an important value in the San Francisco office. “I used to work around homeless issues and solutions,” says Ayung. “Glide’s mission play into the wheelhouse of caring and compassion for those less fortunate than I am, and paying forward all the good fortune I’ve received in my life.”
“That morning I got up, like any normal day and served my family breakfast,” says Rhona Antiporda, an accountant at IA. “At SF Glide, I served breakfast too, but it was a very different experience. People went there because they don’t have what I have: Food on my table and the ability to share it with my family in my own home.”
The experience was challenging, but incredibly rewarding. “The most challenging part of the day had to be seeing the small children in need, and it got a little emotional for me at times,” says Lisa Pappas, a technical associate. “But when they smiled, it made me smile, too.”