The honorees at Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s virtual Empty Bowl Lunch have one thing in common besides their volunteer spirit — a passion for helping food insecure families.
On Tuesday during the online event, Rodney Greene, CEO of LaserCraft Technologies, received the Mike Banks Reflections of the Heart award and Jayne and Steve Tanner, retired Braselton residents, were presented with the Individual Volunteer of the Year award. Greene has been volunteering at the food bank for around 12 years and the Tanners have served the nonprofit for five years.
“These individuals are a great example of what it means to have a servant’s heart,” said Kay Blackstock, the nonprofit’s executive director.
Greene said he first got involved with the food bank after searching with his brother, who is also his business partner, for a nonprofit to serve. They volunteered at one of the organization's programs, which involved bringing food to local summer camps.
“There were kids who were food insecure that depend on school lunches,” Greene said. “That opened our eyes when we’d deliver the lunches. You could see it in their eyes that they were so happy to have a lunch.”
Since then, Greene said he decided to go “all in” with Georgia Mountain Food Bank. He has served twice as the Empty Bowl Lunch’s presenting sponsor, — which includes donating $10,000 to the nonprofit — and continues to volunteer with his staff.
“It’s hard to sum up all the ways I appreciate the support of Rodney Greene,” Blackstock said. “He and his brother, Jody, have been such good friends to Georgia Mountain Food Bank.”
A couple of years ago, Greene said his team of volunteers started helping with the food bank’s Neighborhood Fresh program, which distributes fresh produce to low-income homes.
By going out into communities to deliver food, Greene said he has been able to not only make connections with those in need in Hall, but better understand how food insecurity affects the region.
“You can give money and be a sponsor, but when you get out and volunteer, you can see that there's hunger in our five counties,” he said. “That drives me to keep our (LaserCraft) people involved. We’ll keep doing it as long as we can.”
Even though he is the CEO of a company, Greene finds time to volunteer, whether it’s taking two hours off work or serving the food bank during the weekend. He said around 20 of his staff of 110 employees also actively volunteer at the nonprofit.
If he could give one piece of advice to other business owners looking to support a nonprofit, Green said he would encourage them to “pick something you’re passionate about and go all in with them.”
“Don't just give money, take a moment to find out what you can do to be involved,” he said. “You may not be able to be involved all the time, but do it some.”
Jayne and Steve Tanner
When the Tanners were presented with the Individual Volunteer(s) of the Year award, Steve said they were “floored.”
“We were very humbled, surprised and grateful that they thought that much of our work,” Jayne said.
Over five years ago, Jayne said the two searched for volunteer opportunities at local charities and came across Georgia Mountain Food Bank. The couple ended up volunteering twice a week in the nonprofit’s warehouse, sorting and packing food to be distributed to food pantries across Northeast Georgia.
“They have been faithful, truly faithful, friends to this mission and to our team,” Blackstock said. “Their passion to support the work of Georgia Mountain Food Bank is inspiring to others.”
Unlike those who volunteer at the Neighborhood Fresh program or hand off food to families in need face-to-face, the Tanners work behind the scenes. Steve said because they’re spending hours sorting food in the warehouse, they’re never able to interact with the families they help.
However, someone has to do it.
“It’s like unsung heroes,” Steve said. “We’re in the background and people really don’t know we exist.”
Jayne describes the warehouse as “not glamorous.” Steve said a lot of their time is spent sorting through donations to make sure expired or compromised goods don’t get distributed to food pantries.
Jayne said they've volunteered each week for the past five years not only to support the nonprofit’s hunger-fighting efforts, but because of the camaraderie built among the staff and other volunteers.
“That is our little family away from home,” Steve said. “You know you’re doing good for people, but it’s also pleasing to know that you’re thanked and welcomed into that little family that helps people.”