Steve Mackey and “Brook” Brookhart followed pretty much the same path to PORCH. Steve begins, “When my wife, Patty Smith, and I moved here in 2013 from Birmingham, she began looking for volunteer opportunities and found PORCH. She became coordinator for our neighborhood, Colony Woods, and I came along to see what it was about and stayed to help.” Steve, a retired rehabilitation counselor for the Veterans Administration, and Patty had spent a year or so working for Meals on Wheels, picking up and bagging bread and bagel donations from a bakery, so they were seasoned food sorters when they joined us.
Likewise, Brook, also retired, from a career as a professor of chemistry, and his wife, Mary Hughes, now the coordinator for the Bel Arbor neighborhood, soon found themselves involved and enjoying the liveliness of PORCH’s monthly enterprise. They show up for each Monday’s food gathering, after having helped set up the sort room at St. Thomas More on Sunday night after the church classes are finished. “Greg and Clara are in charge of transforming the activity room,” Brook tells us, adding that some of the high school students (mentioned in a previous PORCH blog) are a big help pushing back chairs and formatting tables for the next day’s incoming foodstuffs. “It’s quite a job,” he adds; “we could certainly use more help.”
We’re sensing a theme here. The mission of PORCH seems to draw not a few other couples who work together to reach as many nutrition-challenged families as possible.
Though they do all sorts of tasks, you are most likely to see Brook and Steve at their usual posts at the curb outside the activity room, carting food from each coordinator’s car to the waiting volunteers ready to unpack and lay out the food to be bagged. They are our cheerful welcome as we drive up with neighborhood collections. “Well,” the men admit, “it’s a little less fun in thunder-storms!” But there they are, whatever the weather.
The reasons they give for their dedication to PORCH’s cause are familiar ones. Steve repeats what most of us would say when asked, “I come because I like the job, the people, and especially what PORCH means.” He values the fact that PORCH volunteers know exactly where donations go, and see exactly how they get there.
Brook nods at every word. “It’s a tangible way of giving,” he adds.
“You know,” Steve says, “it’s easy to give to PORCH, whether by check or by food donation. We all have to go to the grocery anyway—just pick up a couple of extra cans and boxes. It’s not ten minutes’ work to load them into a bag to set on the porch. And we even pick it up for you! What trouble is that?”
Both Steve and Brook have just as easy advice to people thinking about volunteering: “Come and see and try it out!”
We hope you will pass their message on not only to spouses and partners, but to family, neighbors and friends with time to help. There’s so much to do, and such varied and valuable work. And you might also pass along Brook’s message from his wife, Mary Hughes who (again, like so many of us) calls PORCH a great sense of community. Join us!
Rachel Victoria Mills