For Dana Birk, one of the positive things that came from the COVID-19 crisis was discovering a passion for volunteering at The Open Door. Last spring, she recalls a time when people were reaching out to help one another, and she wanted to be a part of something sustainable that would have a long-term impact on people’s lives.
“Then I remembered The Open Door and got online and went to the website. I started volunteering thinking that it would be something that would last longer than just a weekend of helping out, and it has,” Dana said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dana has enjoyed getting to work with people without their masks and seeing what people actually look like. The relationships she gets to have with clients has also changed since Spring 2020 now that she is able to have more meaningful, personal interactions with people without the barrier of a face mask.
“Now I can see their faces and they can see mine, and there’s people who know my name that when I come to their car we can catch up on things,” Dana said.
In addition to forming new relationships with people and getting to know them face-to-face, Dana enjoys working at the Eagan Pantry stocking shelves and helping clients shop for food. In the next few years, Dana hopes to have a new organizational system at the pantry that would help volunteers be more efficient and make it easier to maintain a clean workspace.
“I sometimes feel like I do one thing one day, and then I come back it’s either undone or done differently…I wonder if there’s a way to make it a little more uniform,” Dana said.
Dana loves working with many of our different programs from Garden to Table to large-scale distributions at Metcalf, but her favorite is Mobile Pantry at Apple Valley because she always works with fun people and enjoys the positive, friendly environment.
Since becoming a volunteer, Dana said she has learned that you can never truly know what someone is going through, and that needing help can look differently on everyone.
“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” Dana said. “You really just make no assumptions about anyone or anything. If someone didn’t need to be there, or know someone in need, then they wouldn’t be there. And that’s all that matters.”
Dana has also started learning some Spanish using the Duolingo app and has enjoyed practicing her Spanish with clients who come to food distributions.
“I can just see how appreciated that is, that knowing just a little bit of Spanish is helpful to people,” Dana said.
In her free time, Dana enjoys going outside to go for bike rides and hikes, and spending time with her three children and watching them play sports such as soccer and basketball.
Thank you for everything you do for The Open Door, Dana. We appreciate you!