As April is National Volunteer Month, Caring for Friends food program announced its top volunteers for 2022 who helped provide food and friendship to hundreds of thousands of people in need in the Philadelphia area. CFF meets its mission to ensure no one goes hungry or alone in a world of caring people thanks to a network of 10,000 volunteers, including the following individuals:
Geanna Williams Davis, Rita Ungaro-Schiavone Volunteer of the Year Award. Since 2020, Williams Davis has helped her neighbors in need in West Philadelphia through her nonprofit EleganceXtreme. She offers seniors meals, pantry staples and produce, and helps kids with literacy and through a “positive choices” program. Youth programming happens on Saturdays, so the food she gets from Caring for Friends helps ensure the kids are ready to learn.
People Acting to Help, Caring Breakfast Bag Assembly Group of the Year Award. PATH used to offer vocational training to people with intellectual disabilities. Now, it’s transitioned into a recreational program and has added volunteering at Caring for Friends to its schedule. Participants are learning new skills, but what’s most important is knowing they’re making a difference.
Tau Gamma Delta, Caring Community Organization of the Year. Tau Gamma Delta Sorority Inc. is a national organization of college alumni and business women joined by common interests and goals. The Philadelphia chapter began service with CFF in 2020. Despite the global pandemic, these women never stopped delivering meals to homebound and hungry people year-round.
Parx Casino, Caring Company of the Year Award. Before 2020, Parx team members looked forward to making and serving Thanksgiving meals to seniors in Bucks County. Then the pandemic hit, and they had to change how they provided support. They supersized it in 2022 by volunteering, making and distributing meals, holding a food drive and making monetary donations.
St. Denis Church Havertown, Caring Faith-Based Organization of the Year Award. Under the leadership of Tonya Baer and Emily Otto, the parish fills two freezers with food for Caring for Friends, and for neighbors in need. On average, this equates to 300-400 meals a month for homebound seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.
Abdul-Qawi Family, Caring Family of the Year Award. South Jersey resident Abdellah Abdul-Qawi was the executive director at Muslim Serve and ran the Hub of Hope when he met CFF CEO Vince Schiavone. Abdul-Qawi took a tour and then a job with CFF. Even though he’s in the kitchen six days a week, he sets aside Sundays to volunteer with his family: “My legacy is to make sure that my children understand the importance of feeding people.”
Drexel School of Nursing, Caring Kitchen of the Year Award. Eileen Kelly teaches community health at Drexel School of Nursing. Her students go into the community to practice their skills in far Northeast Philadelphia schools near Caring for Friends, and volunteer with the nonprofit at least twice a semester. Last year, she brought another faculty member and her students, doubling their impact.
Bob O’Donnell, Caring Kitchen Volunteer of the Year Award. O’Donnell, a Northeast Philadelphia resident, has always worked hard. He was originally an ironworker, then was drafted into the service. He came back and resumed ironworking, then became a police officer. Since retiring, he likes to keep busy and spends three days a week volunteering with CFF: “I’ve been fortunate. Now I like to give back.”
Council Rock High School North, Caring School of the Year Award. Cemantha Guilian and her special education class at Council Rock North fill mixed boxes of frozen meals at St. Andrews, then deliver them to Caring for Friends. On average, she brings six to 10 students, plus six adults, to pack and sort once or twice a month. In February 2023, they delivered over 600 meals.
Judy Stefencavage, Caring Office Volunteer of the Year. Stefencavage, a Bensalem resident, ran the meal program at a church, and now volunteers in the Caring for Friends office two to three days a week. Serving is personal to her: “At one time, my mother was unable to cook or go shopping, so I gave her Caring for Friends’ meals. I was always in awe of what they did.”
A celebration of these awardees will be held at Parx Casino East, 3001 Street Road, Bensalem, on Thursday, April 27, from 8 to 10 a.m.
Due to the increase in need because of inflation, as well as the cut in SNAP benefits, CFF seeks monetary and food donations, and volunteers. Get involved at caringforfriends.org.