A person posing in front of a welcome center in a blue vest

Chrissy Saul – Lead Volunteer Experience Ambassador

Chrissy Saul is the Lead Volunteer Experience Ambassador at Second Harvest Heartland. Chrissy helps lead the VEA Team, which serves as “the middle point” between Second Harvest Heartland’s volunteers and our organization. “We're very front facing but we also do some of the operations work,” says Chrissy. “We get the space ready for volunteers, introducing them to Second Harvest Heartland, and educating them about the state of food insecurity in Minnesota. Then we move the volunteers into our Volunteer Center space, making sure they're familiar with all our safety protocols, and then teach them about how to pack the project that we're working on.” 

Well before our volunteers walk through the Volunteer Center doors, plenty of prep work goes into a volunteer shift. “Each week starts off with a lot of planning of how each shift is going to go—we communicate with sourcing and demand. We work a lot with Sarah Anderson to make sure we know what food is coming in this week, this month, and what are the highest priorities. We hear what we need in the warehouse to be available for the selectors and what purchases we need to pack first.”

“We also plan for how many volunteers we have coming in—what project we’re going to start, and how long it’s going to take. Our inbound team helps us out with getting the produce brought into our part of the warehouse, and from there we use forklifts to put it on a riser that will allow us to raise the pallets of food higher as the volunteers work through it. That just helps people save their backs a little bit and makes it a more enjoyable experience for our volunteers.”

During the packing shift, Chrissy and other VEAs do everything possible to make sure that volunteers are comfortable and engaged. Furthermore, they do a lot of setup and logistical and physical tasks, including setting up packing and sorting stations, and making sure volunteers have all the materials that they need. “We adapt projects as needed to folks of different ages and ability levels to make an accessible space for everyone who comes in. It’s a lot of moving parts.” 

Part of making volunteers feel comfortable is providing a welcoming space where people feel confident in their tasks as well as the impact of their work. “Volunteers are also very curious about the food itself and where it’s coming from. Usually, we can tell them right down to the farm—so that’s pretty cool to show how much food is produced right here in Minnesota, so we can give back to people in our community.” 

It’s also important for Chrissy and the VEA Team to express that volunteering in the Volunteer Center is just one facet of making hunger history and creating a hunger-free Minnesota. “It’s envisioning a future where no one in our community has to wonder how they’re eating their next meal or how they’re feeding their kids—just taking away that mental burden and the physical burden of hunger. The food is there. The help is there. It’s about getting it to where it is needed.”

“We’re here to educate as well as build up that emergency food supply.”