On a Saturday, once a month, like clockwork you can watch members of the Riley Family trickle into the Freestore Foodbank’s Mayerson Distribution Center for their day of volunteering. Sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, nieces and nephews, and everyone in-between, it seems, shows up to this standing appointment ready to do good.

Greta Riley is now one of the matriarchs of this clan, and she said that for the Riley’s, the spirit of giving back together really started with her grandparents, and is still going strong today. They’ve done a little bit of everything over the years, from making and passing out sandwiches to those in need with their littlest family members (ages 3-9), to getting involved with various other non-profit organizations around the area such as Young Life Capernaum, St. Vincent de Paul and the Giving Tree. When the Rileys discovered how they could regularly help out with the Freestore Foodbank they knew that they were excited to get involved.

When the Rileys first started volunteering at the Mayerson Distribution Center they helped assemble Thanksgiving Boxes for the Freestore Foodbank’s Thanksgiving Holiday meal giveaway, but since then they have moved on to regularly assembling thousands of Power Packs for area school children in need of nutritious meals when schools aren’t in session. (Last year alone the Freestore Foodbank gave away nearly 200,000 Power Packs, providing nearly 600,000 meals for hungry kids).

Greta shared how over the last few months the Rileys have really taken a liking to assembling Power Packs. To make it even more fun, she said that they like to make it competitive, seeing which family team can assemble the most Power Packs during their volunteer shift. And though of course there aren’t any real winners and losers in this friendly family competition, the real winners are the kids who will have something to eat thanks to this family’s ongoing commitment to give back.

For Greta, these volunteer opportunities with her family serve as a way to do far more than just giving back. To her, they provide her family with a way to reconnect, to stop the hustle and bustle, if ever so briefly, to catch up, check in and even more than that, instill a sense that there are some needs that extend beyond their own personal worlds, beyond themselves, and that together as a family they can make a difference in the worls. Even though their volunteer time lasts for only 3 hours once a month on a Saturday, with usually a lunch together afterwards, Greta said it gives them all a chance to reunite as a family, while also focusing on meeting a need in their community.

“People depend on this stuff,” is a lesson that Greta and others in the Riley family are regularly communicating to their children on these volunteer days. Other lessons too, like appreciating what you have, realizing that not everyone has the same resources, the same opportunities, or that if you can do something you should do something are important lessons that Greta wants to impart to her children, and to her, there is no better way to learn this than by simply living it out.

For Greta, and the rest of the Riley family, the hope is that those same principles of serving and giving back that their grandparents instilled in the family so many years ago will be carried forward in the generations to come, thanks to their commitment as a family and to a little volunteering.

So whether you are a family of 3 or 30, why not make volunteering a family affair? Like the Riley family, you can stay close to your loved ones while together doing some much needed good! For more information about how your family can get involved with volunteering at the Mayerson Distribution Center, please email our Volunteer Services Department at volunteer@freestorefoodbank.org or call (513) 482-7550.