Teens volunteer their time, muscle to give back

OSSINEKE Many hands make light work, or so the old-fashioned saying goes. And when you have 29 teenage volunteers working on a warehouse assembly line, things get done at a dizzying speed. On Tuesday, a group of Alpena High School students filled 1,080 boxes with food for area seniors in less than 90 minutes.

The volunteers started around 12:30 p.m., receiving a little on-the-job training, said Tammy Dean, a North East Michigan Community Service Agency employee.

“They stand at a station, we tell them what to do and they go,” Dean said.

Then, as they learned their jobs, their work gradually sped up.

NEMCSA provides early education programs and other services for low income families in a multi-county area, including Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency and Presque Isle, she said. Around 4,500 residents over the age of 60 receive the supplemental food commodities, which include peanut butter, low sodium canned vegetables, unsweetened canned fruits, canned meats, shelf-stable milk and cheese provided by the government.

“The food comes in on semi-tractor trailers, and three full-time warehouse employees pack it on pallets so it can be inventoried,” Dean said.

Then the workers bring it out to the line where volunteer groups from the community provide free labor to fill boxes that glide by on rollers.

The students kept up their high-speed pace except when someone needed to borrow Dean’s box cutters to open a case. After a pause of less than a minute, the line then resumed its fast speed as NEMCSA staffers stacked the finished boxes on palettes and used a fork lift to haul them away.

“They all do a wonderful job,” said Dean, who also works with volunteer church groups on the food packing line. “They come in with a positive attitude and have fun doing what they do.”

When the class was done with its shift, the students filed into a conference room where they snacked on juice and Christmas cookies before heading back to classes.

Several said the activity was a little bit of a workout, but they were glad to help.

“I think the food is helping someone to live and survive,” student Megan MacGregor said. “The community does so much for us as teenagers and high school students and we’re giving back.”

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.