Laguna Food Pantry SOV 22

Published: April 13, 2022

Laguna Food Pantry

Honoree’s Name: Cynthia Carson

Award Category: Hunger & Homelessness

Why This Volunteer is Extraordinary:

Cynthia Carson

I cannot think of a better person to nominate for the Spirit of Volunteerism Award than Cynthia Carson. Cynthia is a valued Laguna Food Pantry Board Member and serves as its Operations Chair. Instead of sheltering-in-place, as someone in his or her 70s would, Cynthia is at Laguna Food Pantry daily, volunteering her time and talents – to help those in need. Laguna Food Pantry has not missed a day of operations since the onset of the pandemic. Cynthia has been at the forefront of every day and every decision. Volunteering her time, a minimum of five days a week, but more often seven days a week, Cynthia has helped transform Pantry to operations outdoors with drive-through grocery distribution to accommodate the increased demand while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. In February 2020, the Laguna Food Pantry served 80-100 families a day with food insecurities, compared to the 150 families served daily in March 2022. The per-day record number served during the pandemic was 342 in November 2020. Not one to sit back when there are neighbors in need, Cynthia is driving to rescue donated produce, bagging produce, and unloading deliveries. Cynthia has worked with suppliers and delivery services, ensuring that the Laguna Food Pantry would have enough food to meet the growing demand. She makes sure that the groceries provided to the families in need are the freshest, highest-quality food possible. She helped transform the interior of the Pantry into a food distribution system and help coordinate the flow of the drive-through distribution system. Recognizing that the interior of the Pantry would not accommodate the amount of food needed, Cynthia was instrumental in the Laguna Food Pantry purchasing an outdoor cooler large enough to house eight pallets. Cynthia worked as the unofficial general contractor, securing the contractors and suppliers to have the majority of the prep work completed pro bono. Their willingness to supply labor and supplies gratis is a testimonial to Cynthia. Her warm and inviting personality endears her to everyone she meets. Cynthia, the former CEO of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, brought her management consulting expertise to the Laguna Food Pantry. She helped design, facilitate, and implement long-range strategic plans for a diverse group of clients. Her significant experience in leading organizational change helped develop a clear vision for the Laguna Food Pantry’s future. She was instrumental in redefining the Pantry’s direction and strengthening our future with specific strategies on how to get there. Cynthia is Laguna Food Pantry’s hero and couldn’t be more well-deserving of the 46th Annual Spirit of Volunteerism Award!

Honoree’s Name: Susan Thomas

Award Category: Hunger & Homelessness

Why This Volunteer is Extraordinary:

Susan Thomas

I am especially pleased to nominate Susan Thomas for the 46th Annual Spirit of Volunteerism Award. As the Laguna Food Pantry Board Chair, Susan leads by example. With respect and dignity shown to each shopper, she volunteers at the Pantry twice a week, welcoming and registering them. While not at the Pantry physically, Susan devotes countless hours to the development, administration, and operational needs of the Pantry. She serves on each committee, providing insight and guidance. An attorney by background, Susan helped guide Laguna Food Pantry from a small “Mom and Pop” operation to a sophisticated business that currently is serving 150 shoppers a day. Her enthusiasm and devotion to serving the needs of others are at the forefront of all she does. Just as Laguna Food Pantry has not missed a day of operations since the pandemic outbreak, neither has Susan. Susan joined the Laguna Food Pantry’s Board of Directors in 2010, initially serving as Treasurer and Vice-Chair. In each role, Susan demonstrated her long-term commitment to the betterment of Laguna Food Pantry and the community as a whole through her unwavering commitment to those with food insecurities. Over the years, Susan has supported and volunteered her time with many nonprofits in Orange County and regularly cooks meals for the homeless and serves them at the Friendship Shelter. Whether it is helping to prepare budgets, writing grant applications, or putting together fundraising outreach material, Susan is at the heart of Laguna Food Pantry. Her humble character always is appreciative of others’ efforts and never expects thanks or recognition in return. There is no one more deserving of the award than Susan Thomas for her quiet acts of kindness, advocacy, and generosity, and her tireless efforts to serve the needs of those at-risk in Orange County. Thank you for your consideration and the opportunity to nominate a well-deserving candidate.

Honoree’s Name: Lesli Henderson

Award Category: Hunger & Homelessness

Why This Volunteer is Extraordinary:

Lesli Henderson

With great pleasure, I nominate Lesli Henderson for the 46th Annual Spirit of Volunteerism Award. Lesli started volunteering with Laguna Food Pantry in 2018 and quickly became so much more than an occasional volunteer. With her background in practicing law, organizational skills, and enthusiastic, kind demeanor, Lesli took on the role of Volunteer Manager and Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors. She started interviewing potential volunteers, assessing their best placement, and instituting needed policies and procedures. In March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak tested Lesli’s organizational skills and dedication to the Laguna Food Pantry, and she rose to the challenge. With safety protocols in place, Lesli manages over 150 volunteers, ensuring that the Laguna Food Pantry is open and serving the growing demand of neighbors with food and nutrition insecurities. Making sure that our volunteers and shoppers are safe, Lesli manages the schedule and placement of each volunteer. As the operations moved outdoors to a drive-through curbside service, new jobs, roles, and responsibilities developed daily. Lesli’s commitment and leadership are paramount to the success of daily Pantry operations. With ongoing changes and new developments at the onset of the pandemic, her adaptability and flexibility proved what a vital leader and role model she is. Thank you for the opportunity to honor Lesli Henderson with the 46th Annual Spirit of Volunteerism Award nomination.