When Deb Gallagher Googled “Food Shelves Near Me” in 2015, she wasn’t expecting to find herself still volunteering with The Open Door in summer 2021. After starting out volunteering once a month, she now volunteers at least once a week, and is an expert at stocking shelves in a well-designed formation that allows for efficiency in finding items, an organized workspace for volunteers, and an overall more pleasant shopping experience for clients. Deb’s background in graphic design has given her a keen eye in implementing shelving arrangements that other volunteers often mimic as well.
According to Deb, making The Open Door’s shelves as shoppable as possible is important to her because she wants clients to feel as though they are shopping at a grocery store. “I just feel so good when I come in
for my next shift and I see the shelves of bread set up the way that I set them up so that the loaves of bread aren’t five on top of each other, squishing the ones on the bottom. Little by little, it’s making more of an impact,” Deb said.
One of Deb’s favorite moments so far was when she came into her afternoon shift at 12:30 pm one day and found that the deliveries had been late, so there were still palettes and shelves full of food that needed to be sorted and put away. When Deb arrived, she recalls a staff member telling her to “work her magic” on the produce aisles because of her reputation for making everything look perfectly organized and presentable. Besides making the pantry look neat, Deb said that the purpose behind her designs is to make shopping as easy and dignified as possible for clients.
Deb’s experience designing magazines, books, and working for Hallmark designing gift bags and greeting cards has given her a creative perspective that everyone on staff and the other volunteers appreciate.
As a long-time volunteer, Deb remembers what it was like to volunteer before COVID-19 and appreciates all the problem-solving that allowed The Open Door to remain open throughout the course of the pandemic. Despite being in a high-risk group for the virus, Deb said she never once felt unsafe while volunteering because of the procedures the staff put into place for the safety of both the volunteers and the clients. The hardest part about volunteering during the pandemic for Deb was shopping for other people during a time where The Open Door couldn’t let people come into the pantry to shop for themselves.
“It’s hard to know what people want and know their preferences. And I love to grocery shop myself, so I like to take my time and look at everything. So, I was probably the slowest person doing that, so I went back to stocking,” Deb said.
Last summer, The Open Door saw an increase in the number of people who utilized the pantry’s services, and, according to Deb, helping to meet this need is the best part about volunteering. She also wants people to know that, despite living in well-funded suburbs like Dakota County, hunger is still an issue that everyone should recognize.
“The biggest reason I volunteer is that I’m helping people who need help. And if you’re in a position that you can help, I feel like you should help,” Deb said.
In addition to her creative talents, Deb has also made The Open Door a very welcoming environment for everyone. She always takes the time to greet new volunteers and makes everyone feel at home when they come to The Open Door.
When Deb is not volunteering, she is enjoying the freedom of retirement by traveling the world. For the last six years, Deb travels internationally throughout the fall and stays in different country for a month or two. She always wanted to live in another country, so her annual trips are her way of getting that experience.
“I like to go to London and rent an apartment, and then sometimes I’ll do day trips from London and get a place someplace else that I want to spend a day or two. It’s just a hassle-free way of traveling,” Deb said.
We couldn’t ask for a more dedicated and passionate volunteer, and we are so grateful to have Deb’s consistent support over the last six years!