Kind of depressing, not that there’s a lot of really upbeat volunteer jobs.
It was kinda weird. Our clientele was largely Russian, and we had to be very careful to put exactly the same things in all the boxes going home with all the Russians or they would feel bad about it.
We had a bunch of weird donated things that weren’t routinely put into the boxes that people had to ask for. These included hair dye, disposable diapers, deodorant, tampons, dog kibble, and if anyone asked for fabric softener, we had these things that you stick onto the dryer drum that last for many cycles. Of course, most of these people would have been using the dryer in a laundromat or their apartment laundry room, rather than their own dryer, so that probably wasn’t too effective.
In general, the stuff we had to put into the boxes was crap. There was lots of sugary cereal. The grocery stores were really good about donating out-of-date cookies, so for Christmas we had Halloween-decorated cookies, for Valentine’s Day we had Christmas-decorated cookies, and so on throughout the year. (Although they did come up with some Easter baskets, with toys, at the appropriate time.)
The bread was at least a day old, the milk was past its sell-by date, the cans were dented or outright bashed, the fruit was bruised, the vegetables were on their last legs, and the Russians didn’t want certain things (bananas) and wanted other things we never had (beets). In general, you would be hard pressed to make nutricious meals out of the stuff. I’m not even sure all of it was safe to eat (particularly the bashed cans).
I started out just loading the boxes, then did the check-in thing, and then went back to loading the boxes. The upper echelon of volunteers were the ones who went out and solicited things (like the aforementioned cookies). These were usually women without paying jobs, and they really seemed to look down on those of us who had to work, but they were very nice to the people who got the boxes.
This thing at first was set up during hours when most people who were working couldn’t come to pick up a box–although the working poor were the ones who qualified. (If people got food stamps or could qualify for them, we weren’t supposed to give them boxes.) I lobbied for them to change this, and when they did, we got way more people than we had food for, so they changed it back. Rather disappointing. I don’t know why the elite bunch didn’t just go out and find more loose food. They were pretty good at it.
Oh, we also had a budget to buy some fresh stuff every other week. Once again, those with good negotiation skills went to town, so there were usually a couple of pieces of meat per box, and this was where we really had to be careful. If one Russian got a chicken breast and chicken thigh, that’s what they all had to get.