On Tuesday Nov. 2, a group of 12 ISRI members met outside the Embassy Suites hotel lobby in Tampa, Fla. They had just finished putting together ISRI’s exhibit booth at the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Legislative Summit and were preparing to embark on another collaborative effort. A 15-minute car ride brought them to Feeding Tampa Bay, where they sorted and packed meals for local families at one of the non-profit’s warehouses.
During their shift, ISRI members worked in an assembly line to pack the boxes of food. First perishable and/or non-perishable foods were inspected for their expiration date and quality. Then the good foods were packaged into bags and boxes to be distributed to hungry Tampa Bay neighbors a few days later.
“It was a great experience,” says Danielle Waterfield, ISRI’s chief policy officer. This was the first year ISRI members had the opportunity to participate in a service project in conjunction with NCSL.
A part of the national Feeding America network, Feeding Tampa Bay focuses on providing food to nearly one million food insecure families in the 10-county area of West Central Florida. There are several ways interested volunteers can get involved including helping pack and provide meals to communities in a drive-thru style distribution, assisting staff in the daily operations of the organization’s café and preparing and serving meals, and packing and sorting foods at the organization’s warehouses.
Working together, ISRI volunteers packed 2,500 boxes over the course of the three-hour shift. The organization told Waterfield that the ISRI crew doubled Feeding Tampa Bay’s daily shift output. “We all enjoyed donating our time to such a great cause,” recalls Aaron Gaby, general manager of Gaby Iron & Metal. “It’s something I hope we can continue to do during future Summits. It was so easy to come together and the collective hours we were able to donate really added up to a lot of good.”
Though no stranger to volunteering, the event was Emily Ham’s first experience at packaging meals for families in need. The senior regional manager, government relations at WestRock found the experience to be rewarding. “The same way all of us worked at the exhibit booth was how we came together as a team in the shift,” she says. “It was exciting to see that synergy.”
Matt Wells, Ham’s fellow WestRock senior regional manager, agrees that it was a wonderful opportunity to give back to the local community. “When you’re packing the boxes, you realize each one coming down the line is a family that you’re feeding,” he says. “It makes you very grateful for what you have, and for organizations like Feeding Tampa Bay that help these families.”
Seeing how proud ISRI members were afterward, Waterfield hopes ISRI can coordinate a similar service project at next year’s NCSL Legislative Summit in Denver. “ISRI will definitely explore possibilities for being able to do something like this at future NCSL Summits,” she says. “We have yet to see what Denver might bring us, but we hope ISRI can again engage with the local community to help those in need.”
All photos courtesy of Aaron Gaby. Featured image caption: From left to right: Sean Harrigan, SA Recycling, Priscilla Amaris, SA Recycling, Clint Rice, Trademark Metals Recycling Matt Wells, WestRock, Emily Ham, WestRock, Justin Short, ISRI, Danielle Waterfield, ISRI, Debra Champlin, Champlin Tire Recycling, Gary Champlin, Champlin Tire Recycling, Aaron Gaby, Gaby Iron & Metal, Alex Veder, Trademark Metals Recycling, and John Bianculli, Trademark Metals Recycling. Body image caption: Priscilla Amaris and Sean Harrigan, SA Recycling, West Coast Chapter, assembling boxes.