Kenneth Ko, Lead Volunteer

When we first met Kenneth, he was a college student needing to fulfill class requirements. A year later, he’s done virtually every volunteer job we have  – including translation work – and is now an integral member of the Food Bank family. Learn about his favorite volunteer memory, what he finds most rewarding, and how Tetris works its way into his volunteer experience!

  1. Tell us about yourself.
    I just graduated from UC Davis, and also work as a property manager. Now that I’m done, I’m taking a gap year to take more classes and then go to physical therapy school. I started volunteering at the Food Bank a year ago because it was a requirement for my minor at UCD – community nutrition. But I kept coming back even after all my hours were done!
  2. You’ve volunteered many times. What types of things have you done?
    I’ve bagged produce and worked the assembly line, and also straightened the shelves in the distribution center. As a lead volunteer, I make sure everyone is safe and provide other volunteers with their instructions for the shift so that all produce is properly handled and packaged. I also give volunteer tours. I work the weekend shift, and drop by on the weekdays if I have time.I also provided translation work. There were client fliers that needed to be translated into Chinese. It was important because it had basic information that would help people who speak Chinese. I enjoyed this project a lot because I have the ability to help and love the opportunity to do it. It reminded me of when I first immigrated to America 10 years ago, and couldn’t speak English as well.
  3. What do you enjoy the most?
    I enjoyed sorting and assembling food drive boxes the most. It’s like playing Tetris! We pack in as much nutritious food possible for a family – like proteins, whole grains.
  4. What’s the most rewarding part of volunteering?
    The most rewarding part is helping people in need. I feel like I need to give back to my community. It’s also helped me personally because before I was a lead volunteer, I was shy. Now, I can jump in front of everyone and give tours! Judah, other lead volunteers, and other staff gave me confidence. They showed me how to do things to get it done.
  5. Describe the Food Bank in 3 words.
    Welcoming. Friendly. Warm.This is my second home. We all [volunteers] have the same goal to work towards, and treat each other with respect.
  6. You could use your skills to volunteer anywhere. Why do you stay involved with the Food Bank?
    The need – serving 1 in 5 people in the county. Another reason is the other lead volunteers. When I first started volunteering, they, and Judah, helped me learn all the different parts of the job. When I made a mistake, it was a learning opportunity. At other places, they might get mad! Here, they treat me like family.
  7. What would you tell others who are looking for a place to volunteer?
    I would say once you come here, you won’t only bag produce and help others, you’ll also know Alameda County better. On one tour, a mom asked her kid “Do you see the privilege you have?” It’s an opportunity to appreciate what you have and give back.
  8. What’s a volunteer memory that stands out to you?
    One weekend last summer – it was me, Blair [lead volunteer] and Judah – and there were 120 people on the floor volunteering. I was still learning how to be a lead volunteer for such a large group. It was overwhelming – there was lots of food to sort. I was running back and forth with the pallet jack to keep weighing food. But, it felt amazing! There was so much food produced in one day to help so many people in the community.
  9. What’s your favorite food?
    That’s hard! As a college student, food cooked by my parents or grandparents is the best. I always look forward to coming home from school for that.
  10. Final thoughts?
    Don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in 3 hours. When you volunteer here, you know that food will go out to the community in 48 hours. You give up your time, but you have control of that. And in that time, you can make a real difference.