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Food bank volunteer gives back during retirement

Posted at 6:48 PM, Jun 11, 2020

AKRON, Ohio — There are a few things Rita Stahl teaches you about herself early on in the conversation.

She's recently retired and likes to hike and garden. She also never stops moving, smiling or laughing during her time volunteering at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.

"It's absolutely the best job for volunteering," she said while loading a plain cardboard box full of non-perishable food. "It keeps us strong. It keeps us active and then everybody here - we have so much fun together." Her signature laugh ringing out at the end of her thought as she looked around the warehouse at her friends.

Stahl did not want to stay home during her retirement and landscaping her home was not keeping her as busy as she wanted.

"I'm not a fan of lazy so my husband was just like go, go, go, go," she said.

Stahl started at the food bank in July of 2019.

"From last July (until) the end of December I had over 100 (hours)," she said. Stahl racked up her triple-digit volunteering hours by coming twice a week to the warehouse.

It's dedication like that is something the food bank needs said Raven Gayheart.

"Last year, more than 10,000 volunteers contributed nearly 60,000 hours of service," Gayheart said about the people who come to help out.

When added up, Gayheart said the unpaid hours equal the same amount worked if the food bank had 29 full-time employees. But the organization can't afford to pay that many employees which is why volunteers like Stahl are so valuable.

During her volunteer hours Stahl sorts, inspects, cleans, and boxes food that will be sent out to eight counties. The cardboard boxes hold 31 pounds of food each.

When the pandemic hit communities served by the food bank, the need for the boxes skyrocketed.

"The people couldn't get on unemployment so they had to come and get food somewhere," Stahl said.

But, volunteers had to wait to come in and help. The organization stopped having volunteers come in for several weeks. When the doors finally opened again for volunteers, Stahl said she was ready to get out of the house and back to packing boxes. Her work with the food bank allows her to see how far the need goes in Northeast Ohio.

"And there is nothing more heartbreaking and to think that there's kids that are hungry," she said. "I mean, I never went through that but I don't want to see it."

She knows not everyone can give time to charities in the area but Stahl said she wanted to be a woman of action.

"I don't want any regrets that I didn't try to help somebody."

She encourages people who can't volunteer to donate to the food bank when they can.