We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Each year, the Linda Meacham Excellence in Volunteerism Award recognizes a Fisherman’s Mark volunteer for their tireless service. In 2021 the award was handed to the husband and wife team of Melanie Williams and Tom White in appreciation of their ten years of hard work. The pair received the award at a volunteer appreciation event held at Gravity Hill Farm in Titusville.
This is what Mel and Tom had to say about volunteering, what Linda Meacham, the award’s namesake and past executive director of Fisherman’s Mark had to say about their service, and what Jennifer Williford, current executive director had to say about the award:
Melanie and Tom, the two of you are a team. How long have you been married? We’ve been together as partners for 20 years but were married in 2013.
Do you always volunteer together? I first started volunteering at the Fisherman’s Mark food pantry, by myself, in 2011. Tom started volunteering in 2012. Tom has served on the Board of Directors since 2016 and is currently the Board Treasurer.
Do you do the same thing? For years, Tom and I divided our duties at the food pantry – he would distribute the frozen meat and fresh produce to clients and I would help clients choose other food items from the display shelves. Now, I restock and reorganize the food items on the shelves and Tom pre-packs grocery bags for our Social Service Agency clients. We also order food for the pantry and help unload and organize the food from the truck deliveries twice a month. Tom keeps track of the food order lists and invoices and writes a report twice a month.
Does the above reflect your marriage as well? We are natural coordinating partners in projects, tasks, and events that we’ve taken on over the years. We first bought a house together in Lambertville 2001 and did some major interior renovations. The good news is that we’re still together after such a stressful undertaking.
Why Fisherman’s Mark? After our retirement in 2011, we searched for volunteer opportunities that would be close to home and would fulfill the desire to be useful and connected to the community. Finding Fisherman’s Mark was a bonus for us in that we met some great people right away and were able to jump in and put some of our organizational skills to work. We started working in the food pantry and organizing the incoming food supplies. Gradually, we took on a few more tasks, which increased our involvement and commitment to Fisherman’s Mark. When the food pantry needed to be relocated, we helped organize the set-up in the Hibernia location and worked on establishing processes and procedure for the pantry.
What would you say to someone who might be interested in volunteering? If someone is looking to fulfill their need to be useful and connected to people, if they are flexible and energetic, if they are willing to do some laborious and/or repetitive tasks, if they are willing to follow the lead from more experienced volunteers, if they want to work with thoughtful, caring, intelligent staff & volunteers, then Fisherman’s Mark provides a perfect opportunity and outlet. It’s great to be able to give meaningful service to others.
Describe a Fisherman’s Mark client Fisherman’s Mark serves a wide variety of different clients with unique circumstances, needs, cultures, and personalities. A majority of clients are very grateful to have the support of this organization.
Why is what we do important? Fisherman’s Mark provides critical services and outreach to those who might be forgotten. People who are hurting, have limited food and incomes, and who are surviving from day to day.
Do you know Linda Meacham? Linda was the Executive Director when we started volunteering at the food pantry. She was open, warm and welcoming to us. Her positive nature, commitment to the organization and perseverance to the challenges of running a non-profit service organization are qualities that were inspirational for us. She was another reason for our continued support of the organization.
How does it feel to be the recipient of this award? Of course we are thrilled and honored to have been chosen for the Volunteer of the Year Award in Linda’s name. We fully recognize that there are many other volunteers who have been with the organization longer than us, who are super-service oriented and far more talented/able than we are. What a pleasure it has been to work with them and the staff. This special recognition is a real “high” for us and reinforces our commitment to be of service to Fisherman’s Mark.
Linda Meacham, what does it mean to have an award in your name? It feels uncomfortable. I firmly believe that volunteers are the heartbeat of Fisherman’s Mark, and kudos to Jenn, the current executive director, for making sure they are honored.
Do you know Tom and Mel? Of course I now Tom and Mel! They have been volunteering at Fisherman’s Mark longer than I worked there. They are both so awesome. They have kept the Pantry up and running for their entire tenure. The pantry is critical not only because it supports food insecure families, but also introduces our services to the community in a trusted environment. Fisherman’s Mark has helped many, many people who originally came “just for food”. Mel and Tom “get” the FM culture and were a huge support to me as the ED, providing counsel and a sounding board. I could always rely on them – They are both priceless.
How do you feel about Mel and Tom being recipients? I was thrilled to hear they were going receive the award. They are so special and so good! They kind of have a Midas touch.
Explain why it might be meaningful to be a FM volunteer. Volunteering is a huge benefit to both FM and each volunteer. It is meaningful to FM because it is how we can keep our doors open, and stay within a very tight budget. The number of paid positions the volunteers cover is a huge cost-savings to the agency and allows The Mark to direct more funds to programs. I can’t emphasize enough how important they are – FM could not operate without volunteers. Volunteering is meaningful to the volunteers themselves because involvement in an organization like FM makes that volunteer AND the community healthier. Volunteers can share their unique talents while getting mental/emotional support and experiencing social benefits: sometimes simply making new friends and getting to know their community better. They also experience satisfaction in giving back to others and, often, volunteering can reduce loneliness and or depression.
What does excellence in volunteerism mean? Having been a volunteer for many organizations over the years (typical parent stuff, Girl Scouts, Sunday school, school fundraising, etc.), I learned how important it is for a volunteer to be sure they understand the culture they are volunteering for AND to make sure they are ready to support the organization’s real needs with their work. FM is so lucky to have this huge pool of multi-talented volunteers who do just that.
Jennifer Williford, (current Executive Director), how do you feel about a volunteer award in Linda’s name? Linda has dedicated so many years, as a volunteer and then executive director of Fisherman’s Mark, to the cause of this organization. Although very humble about it, nobody deserves her name attached to a Excellence in Volunteerism award more than Linda Meacham.
How do you feel about our recipients, Mel and Tom?Mel and Tom are a power couple. They do so much, so well, and with so much compassion. I hope they’ll stick around for a long time to come!