Long before 8 a.m. every day, Nancy Takaoka is squared away at Community Food Bank, updating inventory or organizing what’s come to be known as Nancy’s Store. Officially, it’s known as the “Agency Store,” a resource for other non-profit organizations that dedicate themselves to helping our neighbors who are less fortunate.
While Community Food Bank does deliver groceries to customers directly, an essential part of the Food Bank’s roe in the community rests in Nancy’s Store. The neatly organized area toward the rear of the Food Bank’s warehouse is where Nancy meets customers every Tuesday and Thursday. People come in to shop for both fresh produce and packaged foodstuffs for their own nutrition programs.
The only cost is that of transportation and handling – just 6 cents a pound. Nancy’s clients are non-profit organizations – churches, the homeless shelter, youth programs – anywhere where people dedicate themselves to helping those who could use a little boost. Nancy helps them with their shopping, even carrying cartloads of groceries to their cars. Then she updates inventory, logs purchases and takes care of all the paperwork that goes with the job.
But there’s one thing that Nancy’s customers probably do not know, one thing that distinguishes her from her colleagues at Community Food Bank. She does not earn a pay check. Nancy is a full-time volunteer, and an essential ingredient in the formula that allows 97 percent of the funds flowing into Community Food Bank to flow back out in the form of benefits to the thousands of San Benito County residents who rely on the Food Bank to help feed their families.
That’s right: Nancy dedicates her retirement to full-time work and all that entails – except the pay check.
Nancy and her husband, Dennis, moved to Hollister from Santa Clara County about 20 years ago, seeking a quieter style of life. She had enjoyed her career in banking, but when retirement came, boredom arrived with it.
“I’d been home two weeks after I retired,” she recalled. “I deep leaned the house, reorganized. I didn’t work in the yard because it had just been landscaped. I knew that I just had to do something.”
She looked into volunteer opportunities on line, and landed at the senior center in Gilroy. But soon after, she called Mary Anne Hughes, the former executive director at Community Food Bank.
“She said, ‘come on by,’” Nancy said, and nearly five years later, Nancy is still coming by nearly every day.
“It makes me feel good. It works for me. I don’t play golf and I don’t play pool,” she joked, referring to two of her husband’s passions.
That hints at one of the things that most endears her to her coworkers and her customers: Nancy has a wicked sense of humor. No matter what the occasion, she’s sure to offer a quiet, deadpan observation that leaves everyone in the room laughing.
Why does she keep coming to work at Community Food Bank?
“I didn’t anticipate how much I would enjoy being here,” she said. “It does so much for me – the fellowship. I work with a great group of people.”
To anyone else considering sharing time and talents as a volunteer, Nancy advises that they give it time. “I started at two days a week, and now look at me,” she said. “I would tell everybody to take advantage and learn everything you can. It makes you a lot more confident to be able to help people.”
Mark Paxton is director of community engagement and fund development at Community Food Bank. In his spare time, he enjoys being outdoors with his wife, Mary. They are the parents of two daughters and live in Hollister.