Couples who volunteer together, foster community together

At PROP Food, volunteers work together as neighbors helping their neighbors. But not all volunteers come alone — a number of couples share the PROP experience with each other, bonding by making a difference in their community.

Judy Kammer started off volunteering on her own, but eventually asked her husband, Mark Voorhees, to volunteer with her. Judy was a former Board Chair at PROP, but after receiving a diagnosis of cancer, she chose to no longer serve on the board. As soon as she was able, she transitioned to volunteer work, and Mark joined her endeavor. Now, Judy has been volunteering for over 13 years, and Mark for over 10. From first-hand experience, Judy and Mark understand the importance of helping others in their community. “Frankly, it feels good to help others. We’re very grateful to live the lives we have,” Judy said. “As a teenager, my mother and I were forced to leave our house and move to a one-bedroom apartment. We had to use food stamps and wait in welfare lines for some essentials.” 

Dennis and Jane McCormick already had volunteer experience under their belts when they joined the PROP team — they both had volunteered at VEAP in Bloomington prior to retiring in Eden Prairie. “I looked into the local food shelf and discovered PROP,” Dennis said. “I wanted to continue to volunteer at a nonprofit and this seemed like a good fit.” Dennis has been volunteering at PROP for eight years, and Jane for three. 

Paul and Mary Anne Neilson also started volunteering for PROP once they’d retired. “After retiring from Hennepin County Library… I was looking for an activity to enhance my free time,” Paul said. “I made my commitment to volunteer at PROP because I wanted to help others maintain stability by providing food for their families.” Paul has been volunteering for eight years, and Mary Anne joined one year after him. She had supported PROP’s Properly Poised fundraising event, then decided she wanted to continue helping out in any way she could. 

All of these couples had different reasons and paths that led them to PROP. However, they all share similar reasons for returning: the community they’ve formed. “We have amazing volunteers who dedicate themselves to doing whatever needs to be done,” Mark said. “Building friendships while working with these volunteers is a blessing.” 

In fact, sometimes the couples choose to not work together for that very reason. “We intentionally did not work on the same days. It lets each of us have our own unique experience and meet different people,” Dennis said. “But it is special that we have this experience together.”

The PROP experience extends beyond these couples and the friendships they’ve formed — it’s about the people they’re helping.  “We both enjoy the opportunity to be uniquely involved with clients. It isn’t like sending money to a charity, which is fine, but this is face to face, person to person and feels like you are really doing something to help a family in need,” Dennis and Jane said. 

The other couples share the same sentiment. “I feel so much satisfaction from making a clients’ day with food appointments, and knowing everyday that we have somehow impacted someone’s lives by making one thing easier,” Mary Anne said.

At the end of the day, these couples understand the full impact of PROP’s work, and that is why they want to work together to support it. “When I help a family with food and as I assist them to their cars, it is so wonderful to see their joy at having food for their table,” Jane said. “Some people are laughing and smiling, knowing that tonight they will have a good meal. They are so thankful and I have received hugs before they drive away. That is the best of volunteering, it gets no better than that.”





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