The 2020 Volunteer of the Year Award goes to Gleaning Branch Leader Maureen Siegel.
The Pierce County Gleaning Project harvests fruit from backyard trees and donates this to local food banks. Understandably, the pandemic of 2020 created many barriers to harvesting and donating the food safely. Which is where rock star volunteer Maureen Sigel comes in.
In 2020 Maureen put an amazing amount of work into filling in gaps for volunteers who were not able to safely harvest trees. The numbers are inspiring: Maureen led 50 gleans, and almost single handedly picked 8,672lbs of produce! This fruit made it not only to food banks, but also to neighbors that she knew were being impacted by this difficult year.
Because many shelters, hot meal sites, and food banks were closed during the height of the pandemic, donating the food was its own challenge. Maureen instead decided to drop off food to neighbors and families herself, bringing the fruit to doorsteps for no-contact delivery.
“I just really love harvesting,” said Maureen. “Being in the trees, less waste; keeping the trees healthy...I also love helping the homeowners share their produce. And the fresh air and getting my fingers dirty!”
Maureen loves the social aspect of gleans, and misses getting to know volunteers as they pick together. But since the outdoors was one of the only safe places to be for most of the summer, Maureen said she saw more people than ever walking around the neighborhood and got to get to know new local community members she might otherwise never have met. This also helped her be able to distribute the fruit and make sure that the local community benefits from local gleans.
We are grateful for Maureen’s energy, dedication, and creativity in 2020, and like her, we are looking forward to the day when we can safely gather again to celebrate the season and share the harvest.