Fran Barker has been an integral part of the St. Vincent Place organization for nearly two decades. Her motto of “if it’s not fun, you better quit” has helped her get through good times and bad, especially now during a pandemic.
“I’ve been with this organization since it started about 17 years ago,” she said. “I started out just as a volunteer and then graduated to being the volunteer food bank coordinator.”
After her mother passed away, Barker was looking for someplace to give back and volunteer her time, and decided that St. Vincent Place was the right fit since she believes in their mandate of helping the poor and it would be something that she loves to do.
As the food bank coordinator, Barker makes sure that the shelves stay stocked, the bread is bagged, and all of the best before dates are in order, along with other duties.
“I like to help out with the thrift store as well because it’s also something I believe in,” said the 73-year-old.
Due to COVID-19, many changes have had to be made regarding the workflow of the food bank.
“There’s been lots of changes because of COVID-19. In the beginning, there was just a skeleton crew here working, and as time went on more people started to come back,” she said. “Prior to COVID, we would interview each client separately and give them a choice of food that we have here - sort of like going to a grocery store - but now we are pre-packaging everything. So we don’t have that personal touch anymore, which we are a little sad about.”
Barker says that the staff, volunteers, and clients are all handling the new changes well, and that’s part of the reason why she is so grateful to be a part of the team.
“It’s working out and everybody’s being very patient. There’s been a lot of adjusting but everybody is just great about it, and that’s part of why I love volunteering here. We have a good little family. I really look forward to working with the volunteers here,” she said. “We like to have a good time and make sure we are respectful and kind to our clients at all times.”
This volunteer work has kept Barker “sane” during the COVID-19 pandemic because she is able to spend time there every day.
“I wouldn't know what to do without it," Barker said.
“None of this would be possible without our manager Nat Cicchelli," she added. "He’s an absolutely excellent manager to work with and I don't think I’d be here if it wasn’t for him,” Barker said. “I thoroughly enjoy working with him and all of the staff at St. Vincent Place.”