Cathy came to The Open Door as a volunteer in 2009, after the Great Recession hit our community. She was working as a copy editor for the Pioneer Press, where “we were having all of these stories in the newspaper about the recession’s lingering effects – and all of these middle-class people were all of a sudden needing to use food shelves.” Cathy hadn’t really thought about food shelves prior to the recession but became interested in volunteering at one to see what it was about and what she could do to help. A quick Google search landed her at our Eagan Pantry.
“I found that all kinds of people need a food shelf. People need a food shelf because they are disabled in some way and don’t have that earning power,” she says. “There are people who need a food shelf because suddenly they got laid off and they need some time to find a new job.” Cathy didn’t have too many preconceptions of what a food shelf would be like. “I just signed up and showed up and did whatever is required.” It is this team-player mentality that makes Cathy such an essential part of The Open Door and why she quickly moved from an office volunteer at “The House” to staff member.
When Cathy transitioned from volunteer to staffer she was introduced to “a whole other world – nonprofit finance, fundraising, events, donations and how they all fit together and work.” Besides her role as development associate, Cathy also takes on other roles and tasks. During the pandemic she hasn’t been able to help out at the pantry and she misses that aspect of “other duties as assigned.”
“I miss running over to help out at the Eagan Pantry when help is needed. There is something about seeing what you are doing in action, clients’ gratitude and sharing their stories about their lives. Sometimes they have cute little kids who want to pick something off the shelf and hand it to you [because you’re in the shopper role] so you can put it in the cart. You never know when that is going to happen. It is always a pleasant surprise when it does.”
Cathy works mainly from home since the pandemic hit and, “it’s working out better than I thought” although it’s lonelier for Cathy. To be with people again and have a normal work experience is something Cathy looks most forward to. In the meantime, Cathy is, “surprised that we found a new normal and everyone in their own way is figuring it out and making it work, adapting to different working conditions and workloads – it all starts to feel kind of normal.”
In speaking with Cathy it becomes clear very quickly that her favorite thing about The Open Door has everything to do with our clients. “I love it when kids get involved with shopping, I love when people tell you their story – people opening up about their life in a positive way.” She shares about a special moment when she was helping a hearing-impaired person shop for their groceries at our Eagan Pantry. Cathy was doing a lot of pointing at items to indicate how many the client could take from each category. Cathy wasn’t sure how well the person was able to understand her but towards the end, the client had a little bit of ability to speak and she hugged Cathy and said, “God Bless You.”
For fun during the pandemic, Cathy spends time playing Bananagrams with her husband Roger (this has become a daily ritual), binge watching shows like the rest of us, and taking her sweet dog to the dog park. She has her eye on [potentially] an air fryer as her next kitchen gadget.
The Open Door is blessed to have Cathy as a part of our team! She has taken on loads (and loads) of extra work since the pandemic hit. Whether she is learning the language of our database or copy machine, entering copious amounts of data, researching that next grant opportunity, or printing out the umpteenth document that is needed, Cathy does it with grace and a smile on her face. Thank you for being part of the team Cathy!
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