Food insecurity and hunger continue to grow in Maine; the pandemic and rising food costs are driving more people to their local food bank or pantry. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Preble Street has produced and distributed more food than ever before – over one million meals a year – and increased output by
Volunteers are critical to the work that we do here at Preble Street! When they help create meals at the Food Security Hub or sort donations at the Receiving Center, their efforts truly contribute to every single Preble Street program. And the volunteers working the kitchens at Florence House and the Teen Center continue to make a difference to the youth and women there each and every day.
Every year, Preble Street presents a Volunteer of the Year award to recognize the achievements of volunteers who have gone above and beyond to help the agency achieve its goals. This year, we had the privilege of awarding two Volunteers of the Year, John Reali and Jimmy Wilber (pictured above with handmade cutting boards from fellow super-star volunteer, Bob Harradon), who were honored at the Annual Volunteer Celebration on Thursday, April 13. From whipping up a special lobster mac n’ cheese dinner to doing hours of dishes, John and Jimmy put their all into their work. Over their many years as volunteers, they have shown they care deeply about the dignity of Preble Street clients. Below are their nominations from Preble Street staff:
Jack Gendron, Volunteer Program Manager: “John and Jimmy have volunteered at the Resource Center Soup Kitchen, then the Central Kitchen, then the Food Security Hub since long before we began keeping digital records of volunteer service in 2017. Since then, they have recorded a combined 1,500 volunteer hours! As former owner of the Village Cafe, John brings his valuable experience, and sometimes even his coveted recipes. Jimmy volunteers with us every week, despite having to take the ferry in from Long Island each time. Though they have both been with us through many changes, their dedication and know-how have helped us keep moving forward, one step at a time.”
Katherine Howe, Food Programs General Manager: “I’m nominating John Reali and Jimmy Wilber for Volunteer(s) of the Year. They’ve both been volunteering with us for years and have always taken on a lot of independent projects. You can tell that volunteering means so much to them and that they want to be put to work when they’re here.”
Emily Yates, Food Programs Chef: “My nomination this year goes to John Reali and Jimmy Wilber. Their time in the Preble Street kitchen has helped create a culture of community and friendship that goes beyond the hours they dedicate to our space. Every week, their presence and mastery of the Italian American meatball are factored into our menu planning. By my estimate, they have made about 30,000 meals in the last year — an incredible help!”
Congratulations, John and Jimmy! And a heartfelt thank you to every single volunteer who has lent their time, heart, and helping hands to Preble Street over the years. Your generosity makes a huge difference to our neighbors experiencing homelessness and hunger.
If you’d like to volunteer, we’d love to have you! Learn more and sign up here.
April 2022-April 2023
Hunger in Maine has grown substantially since the pandemic began and Preble Street is on track to provide over 1 million hot and pantry meals for the third year in a row. Because of this drastic increase in demand for food, Preble Street launched its new Food Security Hub in South Portland, a sustainable, comprehensive,
An incredible 1,108 volunteers donated over 13,500 hours of their time to Preble Street this year to help support Mainers experiencing hunger and homelessness! It takes many, many hands to accomplish all we do — including providing over 1 million meals each year and ensuring people living outside have the clothing and gear they need