When Toni West moved to Colorado Springs six years ago, she knew she wanted to volunteer in her new community, but wasn’t sure where to invest her time.
Luckily for Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, she quickly found her niche.
“I was headed to the grocery store and I passed the food bank, and thought, ‘I’m going to have to stop in there and see what’s going on,’” West said. “And that’s how it all started, simple as that.”
West started in the food bank’s sorting and packing department, checking product expiration dates and ensuring the quality of food coming in and going out of Care and Share’s warehouse, but she didn’t stop there. “I’ve worked in the welcome office and administration and whenever we have special events, I volunteer those, too,” she said.
For five hours a week, in the mornings on Mondays and Thursdays, West faithfully shows up to help feed her neighbors.
“It makes you feel wonderful, putting packages together for these families,” she said. “It’s overwhelming just to think about the hunger in this community.”
When West started volunteering with Care and Share, she was no stranger to philanthropy: she had recently retired after working 36 years at the Lions Clubs International Headquarters in Chicago, where she’d also volunteered for 15 years at a local children’s hospital.
“It’s been in my blood, so I guess I just picked up where I left off,” she said. “I think people should at least volunteer once in their lives just to see the process of helping your community.”
West helped sort and package food through both the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires and has volunteered at portable food banks around the community at locations like Mitchell High School.
She said every time she sees a people line up for food, it’s enough motivation to keep her coming back to Care and Share each week. “Helping those who need it most, that’s why I do it,” she said. “That’s all it takes.”
Not only is West a valuable resource for Care and Share when it comes to daily tasks, she’s proven her leadership abilities in stepping up to train new volunteers. From teens to retirees, West has helped a variety of volunteers learn new roles. “We help each other out, and that way, the staff can get back to their jobs and we can all help feed the city.”