Lakeview Pantry Honors Volunteers of the Year

Lakeview Pantry Honors Volunteers of the Year

Lakeview Pantry’s annual Volunteer Party this August was a night to celebrate all that our 950+ volunteers do to serve their neighbors each year.

From picking up food, sorting donations, meeting clients at the counter, making home deliveries and more – Lakeview Pantry wouldn’t exist without the dedicated volunteers who give so generously of their time.

This year Lakeview Pantry staff honored two volunteers with the title Volunteer of the Year: Juliette Cwiok and Susan Gawura, both of whom have dedicated their time not only to Lakeview Pantry’s clients but to helping the Pantry run more efficiently and effectively.

Juliette Cwiok

IMG_0038Juliette Cwiok has volunteered at the Lakeview Pantry Oakdale location for approximately four years.

“For me it’s about doing something in my community,” she shares. “I walk to the Oakdale location. I see some of the people that come to the Pantry in the neighborhood, at the library, at the store, so I feel that I’m doing something that benefits my neighbors.”

Juliette first began volunteering during the Oakdale location’s evening distributions at the invitation of a friend, but it was a special project that really got her invested in helping the Pantry with day-to-day operations.

“A couple years ago, Carrie started writing up descriptions of the volunteer counter positions during distribution,” says Juliette. “One night she asked everybody if they’d be willing to look over the descriptions and see if they were accurate. I looked at them and said to her, ‘Oh my gosh, you need an editor!’”

As a former marketing executive, Juliette offered her expertise to help Carrie with the project. “I came in initially to start editing these descriptions, and then it evolved into developing a tool to help volunteers and the assistant pantry coordinators who are doing intake or reporting.”

Soon Juliette found herself coming in weekly to help Carrie with the handbook and other administrative tasks like reporting the number of clients served or inputting information regarding the food deliveries.

In fact, Juliette has become so familiar with the Oakdale location’s processes and needs, she has even trained the assistant pantry coordinators who volunteer each year.

“Juliette is fabulous,” says Carrie McCormack, the Pantry Coordinator at the Oakdale location. “It’s been wonderful having her volunteer in this capacity. Her experience as a copyeditor and marketer has turned my effusive thoughts and ideas into a comprehensive, consistently formatted, grammatically correct guidebook of operations. By offering her abilities, she’s complementing what we do and has helped me as a singular staff person train and delegate to the multitude of volunteers we have.”

“I have the best of both worlds,” Juliette shares, “because I get one-on-one interaction with the clients during distribution, but then I also come in during the day, and I work on the handbook or other projects. I’m happy that I can make a contribution to my community.”

Susan Gawura

IMG_0034Susan began volunteering at Lakeview Pantry’s Broadway location in January 2014.

“I’m relatively new to the city,” she shares. “I wanted to work in the community, and I had decided the two types of organizations I was going to focus on were food insecurity and education.”

Susan was eager to help Lakeview Pantry in any way she could.

“I’m sort of a ‘jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none,’” she laughs. “The first couple of times I volunteered, I was doing counters and the clothing room. One day I mentioned that I’m pretty good at Microsoft Excel, and I could help if people needed it.”

The Broadway staff quickly put Susan to work updating spreadsheets and the volunteer database. She has also helped Drew Moran, Lakeview Pantry’s Manager of Volunteers, calculate and report on the number of volunteers and volunteer hours served each month.

“Susan is a hard worker and has been instrumental in helping us to develop the volunteer program,” Drew says. “She has worked in nearly every volunteer position and excels at whatever task we set for her. Two days a week, we have the pleasure of seeing her giving back to her community, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Before moving to Chicago, Susan had volunteered at other food pantries, but there’s something special to her about Lakeview Pantry.

“I’ve met a lot of people here who are really nice, but what I definitely find most rewarding is interacting with the clients,” she says. “Somebody might be having a bad day or maybe not having a good month, and if we can make them smile or at least make things a little easier for them, it makes me feel great.”

For more information on volunteering at Lakeview Pantry, visit