At a time of year when many are counting their blessings, some are struggling with bare cupboards, empty plates, and rumbling stomachs.
For two BCBSM employees, having enough to eat is something both of their families had difficulty with in the past. That makes their work volunteering with United Church Outreach Ministry’s (UCOM) food pantry that much more meaningful to them.
Margaret Bischoff and Ed Spang have volunteered with the Wyoming-based organization for three years through a partnership with BCBSM. They’re part of a team of BCBSM volunteers who help distribute food to local residents on the first Saturday of the month.
Volunteers also recently helped families sign up for holiday baskets, which provide families in need with supplies to prepare their own holiday meal.
Bischoff explained that she likes giving back to families in the community because she was once on the receiving end of such kindness. The customer service representative is thankful she has a good job and that her needs are all taken care of. However, she remembers a time as a single mom with young children that things weren’t so easy.
Embarrassed about needing assistance, Bischoff said she did what she had to do to keep food on the table for her kids. People often make assumptions about why help is needed, she said. Her work with UCOM gives her the chance to treat families in need with kindness and respect.
“I like to be able to volunteer and treat the people who need the help as people, because I’ve been on the other end of it,” Bischoff said. “What we’re doing there (at UCOM) is small, but to see the smile on people’s faces … it’s giving them their dignity, I think.”
Growing up, Spang said his parents oftentimes couldn’t make ends meet and the result was extended periods of hunger in the family.
“When it’s forced upon you and you don’t have a choice, it really changes you,” he said.
Volunteering at UCOM is a chance to make the experience a little less scary for kids who now find themselves in a predicament familiar to Spang, who is also a BCBSM customer service representative. He wants them to know that someone understands what they’re going through and that people genuinely care.
“You get immediate satisfaction because you can see the smile on kids’ faces and you can see the thankfulness of the people,” Spang said.
Both Bischoff and Spang say the time they spend volunteering is good for their souls and they encourage everyone to find a meaningful way to give back in their community.
“I enjoy giving back and I think anybody, even if you do it once a month, you’ll feel good and you’ll appreciate more what you’ve got,” Bischoff said.
“Your bucket is full for a long time after those two hours,” Spang said.