In today's world there is no shortage of articles, news segments and seminars on couponing, but few, if any, offer the return and success that Richard Edmonds and his church have found through their food pantry. As a member of Riva Trace Baptist Church and volunteer for their community projects, Edmonds has helped hundreds of families.
Employed by the AOC since 2004, Edmonds is an Industrial Engineering Technician at the Capitol Power Plant. He's in charge of scheduling equipment outages and oversees preventative maintenance. By ensuring that everything runs smoothly and efficiently, Edmonds prevents issues before they happen – skills that have served him well as a volunteer in his Davidsonville, Maryland, community. "I'm always looking for ways to improve the food pantry," Edmonds said. He often finds himself watching for any hiccups and works quickly to find solutions. He's realized the need for organization and structure are important in both his volunteer work and during his time on the Hill.
He attributes his time spent volunteering for increasing his awareness of those in need and his compassion for those that are hurting. But having been there himself, he also finds his volunteer work to be a way of giving back. " I was needy too. That's why my heart goes out to folks in need. I've been there," he said.
With approximately 500 members, Riva Trace has found ways to make a big impact in its small community. The food pantry is open on Fridays and the first Saturday of every month. Thanks to donations from members, government funding and grants, the church is able to give away 15,000 pounds of food a month and only spends approximately $600. "Everyone is always surprised at how so little can feed so many," Edmonds said.
Volunteers at the Riva Trace Baptist Church food pantry prepare items for families in need.
The success of the food pantry has not gone unnoticed. It was selected to be the 2013 partner of the Maryland Food Bank, which provided access to both state and grant funding. As a result, Riva Trace served more than 5,000 people in its community and distributed 225,339 pounds of food in 2013.
The food pantry is stocked with purchased food bought in bulk at the Maryland Food Bank and donated food from the Anne Arundel County Food Bank. The food is delivered, separated and sorted into categories. For families in need, the process resembles that of a grocery store – the only thing missing is the checkout line. Carts are provided and people are able to go up and down rows of food picking up meat, eggs, milk, vegetables, fruit and even the occasional bag of dog food.
Visitors must provide proof of their residency, then they are interviewed and their information is entered into a database, which helps the food pantry track visitors and their families. Volunteers consider themselves to be the eyes and ears of the community. They help push carts, load food in cars, listen to those that want to talk and are always ready to encourage those who might need more than food.
A volunteer with Riva Trace since 2006, Edmonds has learned that there are many aspects to volunteering and summarized the best way to approach volunteer work. "While there will always be those that take advantage of the goodness of others, I have learned to treat each person as an individual. All have their own story and I'm eager to listen to those that choose to share theirs with me," he said.
Edmonds, originally from Washington, D.C., was raised by a single mom and was the oldest of six kids. He left home at a young age, marrying when he was only in eleventh grade. "I was 18, a senior in high school with a family to feed, and I couldn't have done it without support from the community," he said.
Edmonds has come a long way since his years as a struggling teen. His community service has touched hundreds of lives, but it's the lives of his family he wants to influence the most. With four daughters and six grandchildren, Edmonds hopes to leave behind a legacy that exemplifies how important it is to take time to recognize those in need and make a difference.
This story is also published in the Fall 2014 issue of AOC's Foundations & Perspectives.