The Food Room’s motto is ‘Keep It Moving’ – “they are words we live by,” says Dave Cooper, Food Room associate.
Greg DeLoach is the Food Room Manager. A Cincinnati native, Greg has been with the Freestore for 12 years. At the time, he was doing security and construction work, and it was the off-season. He enjoyed volunteering at the Distribution Center – “I have to stay busy at all times,” Greg says. “I’m a high-energy type of person.”
After 9-11, he ‘wanted out of that line of work’ and took on a full-time position with the Food Room at Liberty. Not that it was an easier job – just a different type of challenge. “We see it all in the Food Room,” Greg says. “Many of the people who visit the Food Room are under a lot of stress, and we understand that. We practice being humble and having patience here on a daily basis. And prayer, lots of prayer!”
If Greg could change anything, he would like people to become better educated about nutrition, so they could make better choices about how and what they’re eating. Greg values empowerment most, because “self-reliance and stability mean a lot to me.”
A long-time Food Room worker and Freestore Foodbank legend, Bernice Woodard, is retiring before the fiscal year is out. “Those are some big shoes to fill,” says Greg.
When asked about customers who have made lasting impressions, both Greg and Bernice say ‘there are too many to count.’ “I’ve met a lot of people here through the years,” says Bernice, “and unfortunately, I see a lot of regulars. But we’ve got a lot of new clients too. So many people have lost their jobs – they may not want to come here, but we are here to help.”
Bernice, originally from Tennessee, has five children and says that she values respect above all. “I respect our customers, and they respect me. Some are so nice – they will just give me a hug out of nowhere.”
The Food Room staff agrees that the Holiday season around the Freestore is their favorite time of year, even though Greg admits he “doesn’t sleep much” but “enjoys being spread real thin.”
“It’s a time when we get to see people’s hearts going out to others,” he says. “There are a lot of genuine people out there who really care. I’ve had people go through the line and then ask to see me up front so they can give the Freestore a few dollars or write a check. They can’t give much, but want to help and give whatever they can.”
Greg brings his three boys early each year to help him set up behind the scenes. Bernice loves the opportunity to talk with the volunteers, especially the ones who have come year after year.
What are Bernice’s plans for retirement? “I will rest for six months or so, then I’ll be back as a volunteer.” Greg says that they all love what they do – and wish they could do more.