John Dennison - Volunteer of the Year
“It’s all about community”
We are very proud and honored to announce that our good friend and long time devoted volunteer, John Dennison has been chosen our Volunteer of the Year for 2012 by the staff of Food For Thought.
When John and wife Kathy accepted their 23 year certificate recently, John said, “I thought I would try it for a year, and here I am 23 years later.” We couldn’t be happier that John’s trial run has lasted this long. He is indispensable to the food bank. John and Kathy first saw the AIDS quilt on display in Santa Rosa in 1989 and were moved by the fact that AIDS had taken the lives of so many young and talented people. Food For Thought was there recruiting volunteers and John signed up and began stocking shelves in the tiny “closet” food bank on the main street of Forestville. John never really envisioned being so involved in the gay community, but in 1994 he was one of only three attendees at an AIDS seminar for veterans at the National Vietnam Veterans Conference in Washington, DC. When he helped carry the massive rainbow flag in the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco in 1997, he was apprehensive at first as this was way outside his Midwestern comfort zone but was soon overwhelmed by the energy, fun and people’s generosity and he loved it.
Volunteering has always been a major component of both John and wife Kathy’s lives. Married for 46 years, they have three adult children The Dennison’s are grateful for their good life and want to give back to their community. Though he loves to fish for steelhead and trout and says “any puddle of water will do”, retirement is not a word in John’s vocabulary. He works at the FISH food bank twice a month bagging groceries, two times a week he volunteers at the Rural Cemetery in Santa Rosa , weeding, pruning, cleaning up and setting the lighting and acting as a docent for the annual tours. John and Kathy are both members of Bennett Valley Vision, a community group devoted to maintaining neighborhood streets, planting, weeding, picking up trash and taking pride in their community. John often grabs a paint bucket as a volunteer for the Graffitti Program in Santa Rosa and in his “spare” time he helps to maintain the dog park at Galvin Park.
Here at Food For Thought, John calls himself a “gofer”. He picks up locally donated food and is our main man in the South Pole storage room, organizing and stocking shelves every Tuesday. He regularly drives to Project Open Hand in San Francisco to pick up 250 prepared meals for our frozen meal program. John is a mainstay behind the scenes at all our fundraising events – directing parking, setting up, or cleaning up. And he and Kathy are still doing food drives after 23 years and then coming in early Sunday morning to inventory the food we’ve gathered and put it away. John says, “I need to feel useful and while I love to read and do crossword puzzles, I have planned carefully and saved so that I would have time in my life to give back.”
Of all his volunteer jobs, John claims FFT is his favorite. “ Its the people – I just have fun and enjoy being here. It’s amazing to me – we have so many volunteers, all very different and we all get along. I believe the organization’s strength is in their volunteers. People step up to the plate, take responsibility and FFT continues. The focus is always on the clients. In the end, it’s not about us, it’s about them. Serving our clients is our priority. I hope I can be here another 23 years!” We hope so too! Ditto to that!
“People told us we should get a life. FFT is our life”