For almost as long as Food Gatherers has existed, Frank and Lindsay Bateman have been a part of it. The organization is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and the Bateman’s began their stint at the second annual Grillin’ for Food Gatherers picnic fundraiser 28 years ago.
While working full time, the Batemans regularly contributed monetary funds to Food Gatherers, but after retiring nine years ago, the couple decided they wanted to do more.
“The first year we retired, we said we were going to try out different kinds of volunteer work,” Lindsay says. “This is the one that really stuck though. It felt more like us.”
So, for eight years and counting, the Batemans continue to regularly volunteer with Food Gatherers, even planning their vacations around their hours. Their responsibilities currently include sorting and shelving non-perishable food items, as well as serving hot meals at the Community Kitchen, owned and operated by Food Gatherers, located at the Delonis Center.
“It’s taking care of your community,” Frank says. “It’s helping to knit things together and put a net under things so people can thrive and flourish.”
The couple is in non-perishables now, but over the years, they’ve participated in almost every volunteer task the organization has including produce, bulk products and on the trucks collecting and distributing food.
“It’s a part of us,” Lindsay says.
It certainly is, in all aspects of their lives. In addition to physically volunteering for Food Gatherers, the Batemans promote the mission to alleviate hunger everywhere they go.
“People think there’s no hunger in Washtenaw County,” Frank says. “They think, ‘It’s a rich county, you don’t need to do that here,’ but they’re not aware of the need.”
They find people are surprised by this fact, so they spread the word and work to get people involved.
Not only do they help make community members cognizant of the situation, but the couple guides the less fortunate they meet.
“Our relationship here makes it easier for us when we’re out in the community and we see someone who’s asking for help,” Lindsay says.
“We re-direct people instead of just handing them change,” Frank adds. “In downtown Ann Arbor we can say ‘If you walk one block over and two blocks down, they’re serving lunch for another half hour if you need food.’”
Those in disadvantaged circumstances are people just like the rest of us and it may be chronic or because they fell on hard times, regardless, the Batemans want to change the stigma surrounding them.
“Let them be people and welcome them into the larger society,” Frank says. “They’re not some nameless thing sitting on a bench. Food Gatherers helps break that down.”
Eileen Spring, president and CEO of Food Gatherers, says their enthusiasm is infectious.
“They inspire our staff and other volunteers with their good cheer and passionate commitment. We really couldn’t do the volume of food distribution and meal preparation without ‘weekly warriors’ like the Batemans,” she says.
Between their love for the work and friendships made, the couple doesn’t plan on stopping their service anytime soon, if at all.
“Someday I’ll be too old to life boxes,” Frank says. “I just worked through the winter with a broken shoulder. I could life cans with one hand and determine which ones were good, so I’ll be the one-handed sorter again. I can’t imagine not doing it.”
For more information on Food Gatherers and how to help, visit their website: http://www.foodgatherers.org/?module=Home
Individuals and families in the community are welcome to bring in non-perishable food to donate.