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KFB Volunteer of the Week: Maren Channer

Volunteers at Kids’ Food Basket fuel our mission each day through planting, harvesting, prepping, packing, and delivering nourishing food. They drive our success and help all children thrive.

Our facilitators oversee our daily volunteer sessions by welcoming guests, getting them started on their project, ensuring all health department rules are followed and keeping track of our production numbers.  They are truly like an extension of our staff and play such a critical role!
We are so grateful to every single volunteer that engages with us as we would not be able to nourish children to reach their full potential if it wasn’t for their generosity and compassion for their community and neighbors.

Name: Maren Channer
KFB Volunteer Experience: Volunteer Facilitator

How did you first hear about Kids’ Food Basket?
In January of 2017, I started volunteering. Austin approached me about going through the facilitator training and I did that. I have been facilitating groups – mostly corporate or larger groups – who come in for a longer session once a week. I enjoyed meeting other people and groups of people who were representing their organization and showing how their organization is committed to community strength. I met some incredible people and I have a lot of respect for the fabulous organizations we have in Grand Rapids.  The mission of Kids’ Food Basket is one that is just so easy for me to endorse and support – it parallels my own beliefs.  

Why did you choose to volunteer? How long have you been volunteering?
I just missed being involved. I needed to get involved in something where I could see the benefits to other people immediately. I knew that there was a need – we all know there is still a need. It never stopped just because of what is going on in the world. There are still food insecure kids. I never had kids of my own, but kids are very, very special to me. It just seemed natural that I turned my efforts and energy into volunteering at Kids’ Food Basket. This organization is helping build the foundation for these young people. We are giving them nutrition, which will ultimately help them grow and become all that they can possibly be. Without that, they are up against an even steeper hill and we need to help them in any way that we can.  

What is your favorite part about volunteering at Kids’ Food Basket?
I really enjoy just meeting all the different people. We really have a diverse group of volunteers that come in here. People from all aspects of life, some from different parts of the city, some even come with colleagues or children. I love seeing when kids come in and volunteer, especially when they are with their parents or grandparents – that is just so important, I love that! But before anything else, my favorite part of volunteering is the mission: to get healthy food into the hands of kids that need it.  

 Do you have a favorite Kids’ Food Basket memory?
One memory was for weeks on end my shift was cutting Pineapple. I was not crazy about doing pineapple because it gets sticky and at the end of the shift the floor is a mess! One day I came in for my shift and a rumor had spread throughout the building that I had broken the Hi-Lo Forklift on purpose because a shipment of pineapple was on the dock and I didn’t want to do it. However, it was just a coincidence that the Hi-Lo was not working! Everyone was joking and saying, “Marren did it! Marren did it!” Austin, the director of program operations, still to this day won’t even let me near the thing, but all in good fun! Someday I hope I can at least sit on it! It’s things like that though where you really begin to build relationships with people. I think we have become like an extended family and it is just fun to come here! 

 Describe your experience with Kids’ Food Basket in one word:

 It brings me joy to do the work and then see that work done when we deliver the food. The school administrators, teachers, and kids are always so happy, and it is just pure joy. We are helping just wonderful little kids and it makes my heart just burst! 

What is one thing you learned while you were volunteering?
I have learned a lot about our community and the needs of our community that I did not see. I have been a resident in Grand Rapids for 20 years and I’ve loved the city since the minute I moved here. But I have become much more knowledgeable about our community as a whole and the challenges it has. I think it is important to be fully aware of what’s going on in your community in order to best determine where you can put your efforts to serve it.  

Favorite fruit or vegetable and way to eat it?
Of course, I love tomatoes and I love picking them right off the vine and popping ‘em in my mouth! I also love lettuce. I love going and picking lettuce out of the garden and just washing it off and eating it. Maybe I am some kind of herbivore, but is there anything better? Right now is tomato season, so I am one happy lady!