Heartland SHARE offers tangible rewards for volunteers

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Are you a volunteer?

Do you make a dish for a community dinner, sing in the church choir, pick up trash on your daily walk or call friends to see how they’re doing?

June Glasgow, developer for the local Self-Help and Resource Exchange program-called Heartland SHARE-wants you to know you are indeed a volunteer.

And you can join others locally and nationwide who volunteer their time in exchange for low-cost and nutritious food packages distributed once a month.

“Heartland SHARE allows everyone to help themselves while they’re helping others through volunteer service,” Glasgow said.

“So it’s really quite an honor to become a part of it, because that means you are willing to give back to the community.”

In exchange for two hours of volunteer work a month, participants can sign up for a package of food with a $30 to $40 value and pay only $17.50. Additional packages can also be purchased with additional volunteer service.

Part of a national non-profit effort, the program does not have income-level restrictions, is not a charity, is non-government and is not a handout.

The local program is called Heartland SHARE because it’s one of about 375 distribution sites in the nation’s heartland-Kansas, Nebraska and parts of Missouri and Oklahoma.

Heartland SHARE relies on a professional purchasing staff buying from growers, producers and warehouses. Because food is purchased in bulk and depends on volunteer networking, savings of up to 50 percent can be passed on to SHARE participants.

“Because we’re buying in volume-18,000 to 20,000 share-food boxes every month just for our affiliate (in the four-state area)-we’re getting a great deal,” Glasgow said.

The four-state-area food-frozen meats and fresh produce-is trucked to Topeka and taken to a host site for distribution each month.

The local distribution site is at Parkview Mennonite Church. In Marion County, sites are also set up in Marion and Peabody.

The program started in California by Carl Shelton, a former businessman who left the corporate world and became a priest.

“As he was working with Mother Teresa, she told him there were needs in the United States, and he needed to figure out what they were and do something about it,” Glasgow said.

Shelton met with other clergy and businessmen to develop a self-sustaining program of people helping other people-called SHARE.

“The whole idea was for people-especially those on fixed incomes-to have an opportunity to pay for some food at the beginning of the month when they had the money,” Glasgow said.

“And then receive the food at the end of the month, when sometimes there was no money or food. Then the next thing they wanted to do was incorporate volunteer service into it.”

In 1991, the SHARE program caught the attention of the Let’s Help organization in Topeka, and that group worked to establish a SHARE in the heartland.

Glasgow has been involved with Heartland SHARE since 1995 and recently moved to Hillsboro with husband Willard, who owns Glasgow Construction.

“We’re closer to our families, and our daughter, Dawn, lives here,” Glasgow said. “So it just made more sense to come to Hillsboro, and we like it here.”

Although paid for a 40-hour week, it’s not unusual for Glasgow to put in twice that much time working out of her home office and traveling extensively to speak to civic and non-profit groups about the benefits of the program.

“I give it as much time as I can give it,” Glasgow said. “I love my job.”

Some days she gives presentations to as many as three groups in three different cities. Home duties include answering the phone, sending e-mails, setting up drafts with banks and working on a Web site.

The Web site is www.heartlandshare.com, and her home phone is 947-2889. Or those interested in learning more about the program can also contact volunteers Dawn Unruh at 947-0176 or Robin Ediger at 947-2363.

Most people don’t realize they are volunteers already, before they even contemplate joining the program. “Anything you do out of the goodness of your heart, that you are not paid, is volunteer service,” according to a SHARE brochure.

The volunteer possibilities seem endless, but popular choices are helping with the senior program called “Meals on Wheels,” and donating time to hospitals and churches.

When signing up, participants receive a volunteer receipt.

The receipt includes a place for their name, hours they volunteered, what they did, who received it and the signature of the recipient. Each volunteer receipt is turned in when the food is picked up.

“It’s totally on the honor system,” Glasgow said.

A monthly schedule lists the deadline to signup for each month’s package distribution. Sign-up deadline is usually about two weeks into the month, and distribution in Hillsboro is often the last Saturday of the month.

Those participants who have pre-paid can pick up their packages between noon and 1 p.m. at Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church.

If the food is not picked up, the volunteers are encouraged to make a courtesy call to the SHARE member. But if they can’t be found, Glasgow said one solution is to offer that share-food box to a volunteer who wants to pay for it, and the errant participant’s money is applied to the next month. Or, if all else fails, it is donated.

“The volunteers are sitting there with perishable food,” Glasgow said.

“People have to understand you sign up for the share, and it’s your responsibility to be there to pick it up or have someone pick it up for you.”

But a program like this can’t be successful if the food isn’t good.

“We’ve had really good feedback on the quality of our food,” Glasgow said. “And we stand behind what we have.”

By looking online or checking at distribution sites, SHARE participants can get a list of future menu items.

The meat menu offered in March included 1 pound of ground beef, 8 ounces of deli-style roast beef, 21/2 pounds of chicken thighs, 1 pound of salmon fillets and 1 pound of breaded chicken breasts.

And included in that package was the following fresh produce: lettuce, two red peppers, 1 pound of baby carrots, onions or broccoli, eight potatoes, four apples, five navel oranges, four pears, and Velveeta Shells and Cheese.

If that sounds like too much food, it can be “shared” with a friend. Or for large families, they can choose to volunteer more time and buy additional packages.

Glasgow said she sees the program as a win-win situation. And she wants to get valuable information out in the area to prevent any misconceptions.

“It’s probably one of the most misunderstood programs out there,” she said.

“Those of us who are self-sufficient have a really hard time realizing that something this good can be for everyone. That you don’t have to be of low income or scratching the bottom of the barrel in order to take advantage of it.”

She wants people to know they aren’t hurting local grocers, but in some cases are helping them.

“The food items we get in our share boxes are things most of the time people wouldn’t be buying anyway, if they’re struggling,” Glasgow said. “And it’s not all the groceries you need, it’s just a portion of them.”

The money saved can also be used to buy additional groceries, she said.

In some areas, SHARE has joined with local grocery stores to offer in-store drawings and bring members into their stores.

In Hillsboro, the program is still in its infancy, with about 20 to 30 shares a month. But Glasgow said the town and surrounding areas could easily handle 100 shares a month.

“I would just love to see more people participate here,” Glasgow said.

“I think they’re missing out on such a wonderful opportunity to become more aware of their volunteer involvement, to get involved if they’re not and help stretch their food dollars. It’s just a neat program.”

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