One Day | 1,200 Volunteers | 285,120 Meals
For the past three decades, Minnesota FoodShare has organized a March campaign. The largest food drive in the state, Minnesota FoodShare draws thousands of volunteers from schools, businesses, churches and community groups. This year’s goal is to raise $1 million for local food shelves. Dakota County’s goal is to reach 10,000 pounds of nonperishable food.
On March 2, 12 volunteers from Dakota County Technical College and 1,200 members of the local community combined efforts for Minnesota FoodShare. In coordination with ImpactLives, a group of Rosemount Leaders organized OneRosemount Feeding Families to package, ship and hand-deliver meals to Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic.
Melanie Benitez, a Practical Nursing student and marketing director for the DCTC Campus Lions Club, and Brett Kolles, an English instructor and Lions Club co-advisor, shared their experiences with DCTC News:
How did you become involved in OneRosemount?
BK: I received an e-mail about the event and jumped on the chance to be involved. We joined the planning committee about a month ago. The Lions Club was just going to volunteer, but one thing led to another and we were eventually asked to take on more of a leadership role. We thought it would be a neat opportunity because OneRosemount ties in so closely with the community.
What was your first impression about the event?
MB: OneRosemount is a great idea and I’m so glad to have been a part of it. OneRosemount reminded me of other volunteer events where the Lions have participated, but this was the first time I could be involved.
Describe your experience that day:
MB: When I got to the school, the first thing I noticed were soldiers in the parking lot who were also volunteering. I saw right away that volunteers were using a scale to weigh the food.
BK: That was so smart to check in the food by weight. The organizers had a simple little scale with some ropes on a coat rack and a milk crate for the food.
MB: On volunteer sorted all the food as it was coming in and they even had a greeter at the door to direct other volunteers and people with donations. I helped with the registration forms, explaining what to fill out. Kids filled out the forms, parents, too, all the families that came in. People drove in all the way from Minneapolis, a lot from Rosemount, Burnsville, Eagan, Farmington. Other DCTC volunteers helped people complete the registration process.
BK: OneRosemount was really well organized. What they wanted to do was have every person fill out a card to register. The whole intention was to build a database to send out thank-you notes. Now they have a list of 1,200 volunteers.
MB: After registration, volunteers would stand in their designated area to receive their hair nets and booties, and wash their hands in preparation to help with the tasks. As soon as one group was transported into the gym, another group came in. The whole event was just very well organized. I was amazed at how smooth everything all went. It was like something that happens everyday.
BK: That’s a great way to put it because the organizers kept saying, ‘We’re going to have to go on the fly because we’ve never done this before.’
MB: You would never think it was possible! Not a single hiccup at all; it was just all so smooth. After each group, we had about a half hour to get cleaned up before the next group arrived. While each group was in the gym packing food, our task was to enter all the registration forms into the database. It worked out perfectly. Even though I didn’t pack any food, I did go into the gym to see the process. I wanted to get right in there and help, too! They were having a lot of fun! I saw 4- and 5-year-old kids dancing.
BK: People of all ages were volunteering and dancing.
MB: At one point, they showed a live feed on the gym’s video screen of another school participating in OneRosemount. Groups at the middle school and elementary school were competing against each other. It was fun to have that competition.
BK: The video fired everyone up!
MB: As they were packing the food, they were yelling out how many boxes one table had compared to another table. “Table one has four boxes!” “Table three has six boxes!”
What was it like to be a part of OneRosemount?
MB: I thought it was really great the way they kept everyone pumped up as they were packing. They had music playing and people were dancing as they were packing. No one was just standing around, it wasn’t boring. It was a lot of fun. I felt like the time went really fast. I can’t wait to go back and be a part of OneRosemount again! I wanted to stay longer and I wanted to help in every area, in any way that I could.
As you registered volunteers, what kind of responses did you receive?
MB: As I met with the families coming in, I talked to them about where they were from and what group they were with. There were dance teams, sports teams and many church groups. No one group or one response stand outs because they were all really special.
BK: The mayor of Rosemount was there, city council members, several local business owners—and they were all volunteering. OneRosemount was an enormous community effort.
MB: I thought it was just great that everyone wanted to help. Nobody felt more important than someone else. Everybody was helping.
How were you feeling at the end of your shift?
MB: I kept thinking I didn’t want a year to go by before volunteering for OneRosemount again. Thoughts were going through my mind about other events similar to OneRosemount that our college is involved in. I just wish I didn’t have to leave so early. It just went by way too fast.
What can you tell other people about volunteering for such a cause?
MB: I think everybody should take an opportunity to do something like this. Even if they just go for an hour, just to see it. Just go and try it; it’s a good experience.
BK: What was neat, too, was that it didn’t matter what you did five days a week, what your job title was, your age, anything—you just jump in and help. The general manager from Cub Foods got up to do “Gangnam Style” moves with the little kids. It was absolutely time to cut loose and just have some fun, but it was very productive at the same time. They really kept the energy level going.
BK: This event was the first of what they’re hoping is an annual event. They exceeded their production goal of 285,210 meals to send to the Dominican Republic. The remarkable thing was that everybody was there, employees and employers together. Everyone just rolled up their sleeves and they didn’t care what job they were doing.
MB: Everyone was smiling. It was just fun! There’s no other way to put it.
Read additional articles:
- Rosemount group tackles hunger near, far by Erin Adler, Star Tribune
OneRosemount is fighting a complex issue via a food drive and other volunteer activities.
- OneRosemount meets goal to feed many by Emily Zimmer, Rosemount TownPages
Community came together to pack meals Saturday, but group still needs donations to complete the effort