She’s the Food Bank of South Jersey’s Employee of the Month of March and her inspiring story of service, passion, and dedication to her team will help you to understand why she was chosen for the honor.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Carmen came to live in New York City with her family when she was ten-years-old. It was here that she learned the value of service at a young age, volunteering at churches, soup kitchens, and shelters across the city throughout her life. When she came to South Jersey after the terror attacks of 9/11, the local food bank was one of the first places she looked for an opportunity to serve. Twelve years later and her passion for food banking has never been stronger.
As the Facilities Supervisor, Carmen’s responsibilities span the gamut. From managing a team of drivers with countless delivery routes to ensuring the smooth operation of a bustling marketplace to safeguarding the maintenance of essential operational equipment, Carmen’s role is crucial in maintaining the flow of food to the 250+ partner agencies FBSJ supports. But her outreach to these agencies is what she loves most about what she does, and it extends well beyond her job description.
“I look at the food bank as a communications center,” says Carmen. “It gives agencies the opportunity to come here, meet other agencies, and talk about what else they need in their community and how they can help each other. It also gives me the opportunity to go out and talk to these people and meet them in the streets and really see their needs.”
Whether it’s food, clothes, shelter, or otherwise, Carmen’s commitment to ensuring people have access to the resources they need is unyielding, and her belief is that the food bank can serve as a connector for the people who may not even realize it exists. She’s particularly invested in the Hispanic community because she says many do not realize the food bank is able to help bridge the gaps to these other urgent needs, and with many immigrants within the community, she’s afraid there’s a fear factor to consider.
“A lot of people are afraid of getting deported and they’re going hungry for that reason – they’re afraid,” says Carmen who visits different Hispanic food pantries throughout the weekends. “So, one of my biggest goals is making sure they know that we’re not here to hurt them, we’re here to help them.”
Much of Carmen’s time is spent helping others, whether it’s within her job’s roles or on her own personal time, and it’s this time spent that reminds her of what’s most important to her and what ultimately led others to recognize her as Employee of the Month.
“Food banking is a passion. You have to have the passion to work with people, listen to their needs, and find a solution. If you have the heart to find the solution, there’s never really a problem you can’t solve.”
She says she reminds her team of this daily and recognizes that without her team she wouldn’t be able to realize the passion she has for what she does.
“I get to work with great people, and I really love my job because I see how many people it affects…I’m not sure how many people can say that, and I’m proud that I can.”