How Volunteering at the Great Cleveland Food Bank Became Part of Advance Partners Culture
When Senior Director & General Manager Jeremy Bilsky wants to donate his time to a good cause, he knows where to go. He packs his family in the car, heads down Interstate I-90, and spends the next few hours sorting and packing food donations for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
And when he put out the call for his colleagues and friends at Advance Partners to do the same, he knew they would respond. He just didn’t realize how much.
“I was looking for a way Advance could give back to our local community in a fun, team-oriented fashion. I knew I liked volunteering at the Food Bank with my family, so I suggested to a few colleagues that maybe we could make it an organized thing. And it just really took off, thanks to the generosity of spirit from our staff.”
In 2018, “Food Bank Fridays” became a recurring event where 5-10 staff members would volunteer a few hours once a month on a Friday morning to sort and pack food at the Food Bank. Sign up posters on the office walls were soon overflowing with names, and slots were filled six months out or more at most times. At last count, at least half of all Advance’s 190+ staff members had participated at least one time.
A Pandemic Pause
When the Covid-19 global pandemic shut down most of the world in early 2020, in person volunteering had to be paused – for a while, at least. As soon as it was safe to do so, Advance staff was back at it.
“We had to suspend our sessions for several months due to COVID restrictions but we resumed our volunteering late last calendar year. Personally, I was able to volunteer in January and felt very safe doing so with the safety precautions and social distancing protocols that the Food Bank had in place.”
Why We Do It
At the height of the pandemic, there were 26 million people in this country dealing with food insecurity; food is a fundamental human need and there are so many struggling to put food on the table for their families. The Food Bank provides millions of meals every year and they rely heavily on volunteer hours in order to provide for their clients.
“In light of the need, it’s a small token to the community for us to assist,” says Bilsky.
Volunteering In The Future
Despite pandemic setbacks and a return to the office still in the works, Bilsky is confident that Advance staff will continue to volunteer their time at the Food Bank.
“We can’t stop now! At this point, it’s kind of baked into our culture of giving back and helping others at Advance. We love being at the Food Bank. We won’t stop as long as I have a say about it and I know our team agrees that it is our duty – and our joy! – to help our local community where we can.”