Ron Higgins Volunteer of the Year
Being selected as your Volunteer of the Year and writing this has been difficult for me. I feel I am a part of a broad team of supporters and volunteers who all deserve the same recognition.
I was raised in a service-oriented Quaker environment and started volunteering in high school with Easter break trips to a Native American school on the Navajo Indian Reservation doing whatever was needed to improve classrooms. Often that included digging ditches for plumbing, cleaning, sweeping, painting and more. Then after graduating from college, I worked as a VISTA volunteer with seniors at a local community center in Rochester, New York. Being of service and volunteering has always been an important and integral component of my life.
What brought me to Food for Thought was my desire to help those who were suffering from HIV and AIDS. My first contact was when I was working for Khysie Horn and managing Quicksilver Mine Co. We served as an outlet for the food bank selling the holiday wine boxes. Then in 2005 I became more involved when I became a client myself. It was a very painful time in my life. I had just been diagnosed, broken up with my partner of 32 years and was struggling to maintain a much-needed support system while everything seemed to be spiraling downward. In an effort to rebuild my self-esteem I reached out to the food bank and they were there - no questions asked, giving love, support, guidance in huge amounts. I gladly started volunteering on weekends, helping others in need and at the same time realizing that I was not alone.
When I retired two years ago, I was able to restructure my life and at the same time give more time to this agency I feel so close to and that has been important to me personally. Now as a client / volunteer I am able to devote more free time and help support a loving group of people by giving back that same love and paying it forward.
Since my diagnosis, I have endeavored to overcome the stigma the majority of the world has placed on people with HIV/AIDS by helping others in whatever capacity is needed: whether it is as shift captain on a Saturday morning at the food bank, working at Calabash, manning the Human Race booth, helping with the box lunches at the Garden Tour, working the reception desk answering phones, entering data into the database, and even stuffing envelopes for mailings. I’m ready to do whatever I can do to give back all the love and encouragement that has been given to me. I really see myself on this spiritual journey of discovery with an increasing awareness that we are not alone, that there are other brothers and sisters out there who need the same kind of love and compassion so freely given here at Food for Thought. I really am one of many who put themselves out there to help create a strong sense of support so that others can live with dignity.