While Melissa Bargfrede joined The Open Door as a regular volunteer in 2020, she first got involved nearly 10 years ago. Melissa works for Prime Therapeutics, and the company had a giving garden that generously donated to the open door. Last year, when Melissa decided she wanted to take more time to give back to her community in Dakota County, she began regularly volunteering on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Melissa enjoys the flexibility of her volunteer hours and appreciates that her 2–3-hour shifts fit perfectly around her work schedule.
One of Melissa’s favorite things about volunteering with The Open Door is being able to respond to community crises. She recalls how The Open Door’s programs, especially the mobile pantry, were instrumental in feeding people last summer when the protests shut down many grocery stores. She also likes how each week varies with different projects and different goals.
“No two weeks are ever the same. Whatever you get is what you’re working with. So, you have to be able to think on your toes and figure out how to best meet the needs of your neighbors with what you’ve got on hand,” Melissa said.
Melissa has worked in a variety of different volunteer positions, and always likes to try new things. At the Eagan pantry, she has been a greeter, a client attendant, a stocker, and a shopper. She has also done a couple of special projects, such as helping with the End-of-Year Inventory last year, and the two drives The Open Door did last summer.
“I like to work fast and get as much accomplished as possible. I like the constancy of knowing that every Tuesday evening, I will be at the Eagan location, and I will be busy,” Melissa said.
Before Melissa began volunteering at The Open Door, she used a food pantry’s services while she was in college, and was surprised to find how many fresh and perishable food items made up the pantry’s stock. She assumed that many food pantries provided primarily packaged and canned foods, but was pleasantly surprised by the variety of fresh food The Open Door provides to its clients. She really appreciates how The Open Door understands the nutritional value of serving fresh foods and produce as opposed to canned goods.
“I remember we used to get five pounds of peanut butter and two pounds of flour, and my roommate and I were living in a very small apartment with a very small kitchen. So, we would get that and some rice, and maybe some tuna, and have to figure out what to do with the limited resources,” Melissa said.
However, Melissa wishes she could change the availability of food for clients who may have dietary restrictions. Melissa is gluten free, and she has noticed how it can be difficult to meet the dietary needs of everyone who comes to the pantry.
She is excited to see what her shifts are like in the coming months after volunteers were shopping for the clients during the COVID-19 crisis because she wants people to be able to come in to choose their own food and experience the community The Open Door provides. Melissa wants everyone to be able to experience the kind of relationships she has cultivated with other volunteers and staff over the last few years.
“I’m realizing that we all come from different backgrounds, but we’re all working together for the same common good,” Melissa said.
One of the most important things Melissa has learned since volunteering with The Open Door is that there are always people in need, and there are many different reasons people may use the pantry’s services. Some people come in so they can make ends meet, and they can afford to pay rent or buy back-to-school clothes for their kids. There are also people who may just need to come in every couple of months to seek services for a short period of time. She is grateful for the opportunity to provide to people who appreciate and need services The Open Door provides.
“If we want to do good in the community, why not start close to home?” Melissa said. “There are people in need that could be your neighbors that you don’t even recognize until you start doing the work.”
We love Melissa’s positive attitude and are so grateful for the energy and passion she brings to her work. She is always willing to take on new projects, and we are so glad she is part of the team!