When Renee Haberfield heard the Medina County Police Activities League needed someone to fill the recently-vacated spot of managing their food pantry, it was just natural for her to step in, she said. Her parents raised her to help others in need, and so it was a simple decision to begin dedicating her time to help sort and maintain the food coming through the pantry.
In the three years since, she goes to the pantry at least twice a week to unpack pallets filled with boxes of donated food — about 5-7,000 pounds worth, which comes from both community donations as well as the Akron Food Bank. The food services 21 families a week, who each receive the items necessary to make two meals. Renee then packs the food and sorts the food, a task she takes on by herself — with the exception of when her teenaged daughters, in whom she hopes to instill the same lessons her own parents taught her, pitch in to help. Along with a group of volunteers, she delivers it each week to a pick-up area or even directly to the families’ doors. In addition, she participates in procuring non-food items such as toys for various other programs the League, also known as MCPAL, hosts for the families.
Renee does everything she can to help ensure that the families in need around her area are cared for, and for her selfless dedication to the MCPAL food pantry, she is today’s Daily Point of Light. We spoke with Renee to learn more about how she helps her community.
Describe your volunteer role with Medina County Police Activities League (MCPAL).
My role primarily with the MCPAL program is the food pantry. So it’s a smaller community food pantry where we service families within the school district that are impacted by the MCPAL program. So with our MCPAL program, there are kids who are identified who could use some extra help in meeting needs during the week and our food pantry does our best to meet those needs. We try to provide two meals a week for the families within that program. So I basically care and keep the food pantry, as the pallets come in I unpack them and stock the shelves. Every week, we pack bags for each family that contain the basics for two meals for our families during the week. I pack those bags out every week. We have a great volunteer group of people who deliver those. So we have people who take them to the school, and families pick them up there, and we actually deliver to homes too and I’m a part of that. I partner with the Akron Food Bank where they will invite us to come to different events that they have, where we can get non-food items to help our families. There’s a lot of things we acquire through that too.
What made you want to volunteer for this program?
I think its just something you naturally do. My parents were amazing teachers and they taught us lessons in life; they taught us to see need, and when there is need, that God has given us natural gifts and talents and abilities to meet those needs. I think it’s just a natural thing for me. I know that the smallest things that we can do can make the biggest difference and I’m the type of person who likes to help meet needs. I was raised to give back. My faith is probably the primary reason why I believe that. Just in all aspects of my life, not even in just the food pantry.
What is the reaction like from the families you’re helping?
They’re very gracious. I guess what I’ve learned is, there’s so much need out there. The families are not any different than my family. They’re parents who love their kids and want the best for their families and their struggles are real. Everyone I’ve met has just been so gracious and so appreciative of receiving that food, just to make it a little bit easier for them to make ends meet in their family. Most of the time, to the families we deliver, it’s the kids who answer the door and receive the items and they’re just very grateful.
What is it like for you to be able to share this experience with your daughters?
You know, the saying that it’s better to give than receive is absolutely true. I feel I receive more than I give. It’s a weird concept in life that that could be real but it is so true. I think you learn a lot about yourself when you give to others. That’s what I hope I teach my girls, because one person can make a difference. I hope [they know], like my parents taught me, how important it is to give and when you do that, it doesn’t matter if anybody sees what you’re doing. We may never see the rewards or see what impact we make on people, but when you do give up yourself, it does make a difference whether you see it or not.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part is knowing — I know beyond a shadow of a doubt — even the littlest things we do make a difference in somebody’s life. I’m more of a back room girl and I’m more of just the labor in the bigger picture of the MCPAL program, but the MCPAL program does a lot for kids in other aspects. One time I went to the Akron Food Bank for a non-food distribution. There’s a whole bunch of food banks there and they put everything in the middle of the warehouse and you go shopping, but you kinda gotta move fast because you have to know what your program’s about; you have to know what you’re looking for because there’s a ton of stuff there. I went there over the summer, and they had a whole bunch of kids’ stuff. Things we could shop for were doll pits and swimming pools and badminton and soccer balls, all this stuff, because our program is more about servicing school-aged children. So I was able to snag some of those things and the MCPAL program put that together, they did a back-to-school ‘shop with a cop.’ All this really cool stuff that we were able to get, the kids were able to go shopping. One little girl in the program … she had one of those items that we were able to [get from the distribution.] The picture of her … you could see the delight in this child’s face as she hugged this item she got from us. That you could just tell [her joy], it just warmed my heart. It’s things like that, just knowing that I can make a difference in somebody’s life or just bring a little joy or a smile to a child’s face, is a reward in and of itself.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
What is really exciting — food banks are not that glamorous, and it’s something that has been done — but just providing those extra meals at the holidays for families. Getting families turkeys and everything that goes with that on top of the food we provide, and the excitement of [giving them] a complete and wonderful holiday meal, is exciting for me. Those families may not be able to enjoy otherwise. Always being able to service more families, finding those needs and being able to pull people into the program as needed. Knowing that we have the program there for people who need that extra help is exciting for me and it’s something that is continuous and ongoing. It’s just not a one stop. It’s something we can continually serve people throughout the year.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I think what I would like people to learn is that you learn a lot about yourself when you serve others, and when you get to know others and you’re able to share their experience. You know that people you serve are not that different from you. I’ve learned to be grateful, I’ve learned to reserve judgment, and I’ve learned to accept people and offer assistance. I hope other people can learn that it changes you as a person. It’s humbling. I don’t think that any of us are but an illness or a major tragedy away from somebody who we serve. As I said, it’s not very glamorous but it’s necessary and it’s good. It makes an impact and I’m glad to be a part of it.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Renee Haberfield? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.
Post written by Morganne Mallon.