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Discovering Friendship While Volunteering: Meet Margaret and Debbie

friends volunteering together at the food bank
Margaret (L) and Debbie (R) met during their first volunteer shift in November 2020 and quickly became fast friends // Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

When Debbie and Margaret signed up as volunteers with Food Bank of the Rockies in November 2020, neither expected to end up finding a good friend. The two then-strangers individually signed up to volunteer at the Food Bank’s distribution center in Denver on Wednesdays, and from the moment they met during that initial shift, it was friendship at first sight.

“I find that I gravitate toward someone who works like I do, at the same speed and with a sense of efficiency,” said Margaret. “You’re really kind of thrown into the work, and when I met Debbie, I knew we’d work well together.”

“We are both very process-oriented,” Debbie added.

Soon, the two women discovered they had much more in common than just their work styles. “We had a chance to visit while packing boxes and found out we clicked,” Margaret recalled. “It was in the height of election season and we found out we had similar values, which is one of the reasons we both started volunteering in the first place. Then we found out we liked cycling, too, so we made plans to do that together once the weather got warmer.”

Debbie recently retired after a 40-plus-year career with the U.S. Postal Service, and now spends her time volunteering in various capacities—primarily at the Denver Zoo, which she’s been doing for 21 years, nonprofit bike shops, and Food Bank of the Rockies. Margaret is semi-retired, and when she isn’t working as an attorney volunteers her time as a financial fraud expert with AARP. The two frequently enjoy long bike rides together, followed by equally long lunches.

Going into their ninth month as volunteers with Food Bank of the Rockies, Debbie and Margaret spend their Wednesday mornings at the distribution center together picking and packing pallets to be distributed across Colorado. Quickly after starting in the distribution center together, they learned who should be the picker and who should organize the packing.

friends laughing while volunteering together at Food Bank of the Rockies in Colorado.
It didn’t take long for Margaret and Debbie to figure out who was best at what while volunteering at the distribution center: Margaret is in charge of organizing the pallets; Debbie takes care of the picking // Photo by Caitlyn Barnett

“I’m not allowed to do the picking anymore,” Margaret said as Debbie laughed. “The one time I did it, I chose boxes that were 40 pounds each, and we had to do nine pallets. We were just dead afterward. Debbie stopped talking to me that morning.”

Now, the two have their system down to a science. “We make a game of it,” explained Debbie. “Margaret is very detail-oriented, so she packs the pallets. They have to be perfect.” Margaret nodded. “I’m in charge of picking the order,” Debbie continued. “Sometimes I’ll select goofy bags of rice and be like, ‘Oh, Margaret, you’re not gonna like this.’ I know when to walk away and just let her think about how we’re going to approach it, then come back when she’s ready.”

“There is that feeling of satisfaction when we’re done for the day,” Margaret continued. “When we walk in, the staging area for pallets is always completely empty. Afterward, it’s full. It’s a thing of beauty.”

Both women enjoy seeing where the food they’re packing will eventually be delivered. Debbie even goes so far as to see how many pounds they ultimately pack each Wednesday. “We add up our way. Today was 8,800 pounds; it was an okay day,” Debbie said.

What was their biggest day? “14,000 pounds. That was the day Margaret chose the 40-pound boxes,” Debbie recalled. Both friends laugh, recalling the challenge with amusement.

Ultimately though, they agree that their time at the Food Bank is all about the mission. “Volunteering here makes you stop and think about everything,” said Margaret. “I am struck by the fact that no one should go hungry in this country. I’m also struck by the fact that we have to eat more intentionally. Today, we packed a nutritionally perfect pallet. It was very satisfying.”

If you’d like to join Margaret and Debbie in volunteering at Food Bank of the Rockies, all opportunities can be found on our website. Every hour counts, and we couldn’t do what we do without you.

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