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Aramark Unites Against Poverty

In October, I had the opportunity to travel and lead volunteers from Aramark in my first ever in-person event in Dallas, TX. Then a few weeks after that event, I learned that I’d have the opportunity to serve with Aramark again, this time at their Executive Leadership Conference in Orlando, FL. The team and I were excited for this event because it gave us the opportunity to plan and lead a new type of service: rather than completing physical service projects like construction or landscaping, volunteers would be packing holiday tote bags to be donated to United Against Poverty (UP), a nonprofit that works to uplift families by providing vocational training, food, housing assistance, and other critical services.

TCF 15 members, Angelina, Caitlyn, Noel, and Alissa with the Holiday Tote Bags.

While the event itself was only scheduled to last about two hours, it required significant preparation on the front end. In addition to sourcing food and gifts for 250 totes, we also had to put together recipe cards and activity books, design holiday cards, and plan the rotations volunteers would cycle through on the event. While this stage of the process kept us busy right up until we left for Florida, it was one of my favorite parts because of how much ownership we were given over the design of the materials, which allowed us to fully harness our creativity.

After arriving in Orlando, we had two days of prep. The first day consisted of sourcing materials we weren’t able to order online from stores in the area: who knew that trying to find two-hundred and fifty cans of sweet potatoes would be so hard? Even with the difficulties, TCF member Alissa Cook, who took point on sourcing materials and put together the shopping list, made the process seamless, and we could not have done it without her. The second day, we spent the majority of our time preparing the stations, inventorying materials, and conducting final project walkthroughs. As with every event we were both excited and nervous; but we walked away that night anxious knowing we had done everything we could to ensure the next day would be a success.

Kit rotation tables from the event.

The next day it was great seeing all the Aramark volunteers reconnecting and working alongside one another in person, some for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. The most impactful moment of the day was when Nancy Robbinson from UP opened the event by speaking about her organization’s mission and impact, her words carried a lot of power and visibly moved a number of people in the room. After the opening presentation volunteers began service, going through three different rotations in teams to create holiday cards, create “cookie in a jar” kits, and put together holiday activity/recipe card books. After completing these tasks, the volunteers formed an assembly line to put together the bags. The day flew by in an instant, but by the end of the event nearly all of the 250 bags were put together. After putting on some finishing touches and cleaning up, the event team went to UAP to drop of the bags which was my favorite part of the event. For many events (especially virtual ones) we aren’t able to see things through from start to finish; being able to do so in this case was incredibly fulfilling and was my favorite moment of the day.

TCF 15 member Alissa Cook placing packed tote bags inside an UP (United Against Poverty) office.

Reflecting on this event, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that no matter how much you prep and plan, unexpected things will always happen – it’s how you respond that matters. We all grew a lot during this event and I look forward to carrying to lessons we learned to future in-person and virtual events.

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