Ely started working with CUMAC in the summer of 2014 through the Pathways to Work program. It wasn’t an easy time for Ely. She had recently given birth to her first child, Josiah, and this was the first time she had ever been away from her son. The first few days were especially tough, but she knew in her heart that starting with CUMAC was the best thing she could do for her family. She had been struggling to find a job, and being part of the Pathways to Work program would give her an opportunity to gain job experience, to work on her professional skills, and to better support her family. And so her journey with CUMAC began.
After a couple of days of seeing different aspects of CUMAC’s work, assisting with everything from packing bags to sorting clothing, Ely was assigned to CUMAC’s pantry and referral office where she quickly found a home. Her first job: helping with the distribution of food in our pantry. Ely says she was a little intimidated at first — CUMAC’s pantry can be hectic at times — but her fears were quelled by the supportive team around her.
Fast forward to 2016 and Ely can hardly believe how much has changed in just 17 months. When she started with the Pathways to Work program, she was in a different place in her life. She was unemployed and didn’t have much confidence in herself. Fortunately, she had plenty of encouragement and Shanee Alston, Pantry Supervisor for CUMAC, started working with her regularly. Ely felt uncomfortable using computers at first, but the support she received in the referral office gave her a boost of confidence. With Shanee’s guidance, she mastered PATH, an innovative software developed specifically for members of the Community Food Coalition to track client usage, and other computer programs. The experience was eye-opening for Ely.
“I’m not so nervous anymore. I’m more open,” she says with a smile. “I’m more willing to try new things and I see myself now in a much more positive way.”
Ely’s not the only one who has noticed the change. Our staff has seen just how much she’s grown, and continues to challenge Ely with new responsibilities around the building. She now assists all aspects of pantry operations, leads our mobile pantry efforts and has even started training others.
“In the short time that Ely has been at CUMAC, she has become a leader,” says Rose Peligri, CFC Coordinator for CUMAC. “She offers tremendous support to her co-workers and has learned CUMAC's procedures and the PATH database so efficiently that she is now able to train other pantries throughout the county on effective pantry procedures and the PATH system.”
Along with her leadership and willingness to take on new projects, Ely is constantly giving her co-workers and clients a reason to smile. “Ely is a blessing” says Shanee. “She has a huge heart, a sympathetic ear and strong shoulder, our clients really enjoy sitting with her.”
Though she loves all of her new duties, Ely’s favorite part about working at CUMAC is the time she gets to spend with clients. She knows well that those who are visiting our pantry are often facing their last resort. When hunger is at hand, it can be a scary and often stressful experience, but that’s why Ely loves being a face for CUMAC. She gets the chance to welcome our clients, answer their questions and provide them with any help they may need along the way. Sometimes, just offering a listening ear or a few words of encouragement are enough to turn a client’s day around. This brings Ely and the rest of our pantry team great joy and the smiles and thank you’s they so regularly receive are a constant reminder of how important CUMAC is to the community it serves.
Ely is now an AmeriCorps member and couldn’t be more excited about her position. She looks at her future with optimism and excitement. When asked about her experience with CUMAC she says, “CUMAC has changed my life a lot. They’ve put me in a positive place in my life and have shown me so much. I’ve grown because of CUMAC.”
Each year the Pathways to Work program provides dozens of our fellow community members with the support and resources they need to grow both professionally and personally. It’s amazing to see the way it touches so many lives. We’re proud of everything that Ely has accomplished in her short time with us and thrilled to call her a member of our team.
Ely, thank you for all that you do to help fight hunger in our community!