Three stories help Steve Davis illustrate how volunteering with Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana – or any service organization — can put people in a position to make unintended good things happen.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Gleaners serves 21 counties. It distributes food that might otherwise be wasted at low cost or no cost using local food pantries, mobile distributions and other partner agencies.

Davis coordinates the food bank’s services to a network of agencies across six counties. He spoke with the Richmond Rotary Club on Sept. 12. The club helps with visits by Gleaners’ mobile unit to the 10th Street Park, south of First Christian Church. Club members coordinate about a dozen volunteers – including many who don’t belong to Rotary — who open boxes, unload milk crates and load food into nearly 400 cars between 9:30 and 11 a.m. on the fourth Monday each month.

He told three stories to illustrate how volunteering can have unintended consequences.

First, he spoke of Alice, a woman who wrote to Gleaners about how the food she got from them changed her life. She had been laid off during the early days of the pandemic. Newly diagnosed with cancer, the pandemic confined her to home. She read of Gleaners’ delivery service (in Marion County) and called. Next day, she found a box of food on her front steps.

Then, called back to work, Alice’s life seemed to be getting better until her medical bills arrived. She missed two payments and a hospital put her into collections, her letter said. She called Gleaners again and found out about their drive-in food pantry. She went.

“She couldn’t see what they put in the trunk of her car, but she said she cried when she got home and opened the trunk. There was so much food, she shared it with her neighbor,” Davis said. In her letter, Alice told Gleaners that she’d been going there for a year. Cancer free and with her son back in school, she paid off her bills with the help of the money she’d saved by not having to buy the food that Gleaners provided.

He then told of a couple who moved to a neighborhood where they had longed to live because of its annual Christmas lighting displays. The couple became involved by leading a drive that raised $17,000 and 1,500 pounds of food for a local pantry. When the couple became ill, a local contractor had no trouble finding a volunteer crew to go and put up their light display. You never know, Davis said, how paying it forward might pay dividends.

His third story spotlighted the life of Air Force Tech Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien. On duty in Korea, he saved a civilian’s life after pulling them from a burning vehicle and “played an instrumental role” in the 2018 Thailand Cave rescue mission. On his way to receive recognition as one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year from the Air Force, he saved the life of a child who was choking.

Of O’Brien, Davis said, “He … happened to be in the right place at the right time because he put himself in the right place. When he heard of hazardous missions, he volunteered for them.”

He used the stories to encourage listeners to volunteer with efforts such as local food pantries. ”No matter where you volunteer, you’re doing it for someone else.”

In Wayne County, Gleaners provides food that is distributed by five local pantries: Circle U Help Center, Gateway Hunger Relief Center, Northside Church of Christ and the Temple of God. Additionally, a Gleaners mobile food pantry stops monthly in Richmond and Hagerstown, providing food for about 600 families. Gleaners also helps provide food for pantries operating at Richmond High School and Lincoln Middle/High School in Cambridge City.

Food pantries and other local health and support resources can be found online at

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A version of this article appeared in the September 27 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.