Jerry Braun: a 360 Communities Volunteer with a Heart

Jerry-360-CommunitiesWhen Jerry Braun was volunteering at 360 Communities’ Burnsville food shelf earlier this year, there was a young woman that came in with her two kids.  Apparently, she had been living in her car.  Sensing the urgency of the situation, Braun immediately asked her what she needed and gathered as much food as he could along with some mittens and other items for the kids.  As he talked about the situation, one could tell how much Braun cares about the families that come to 360 Communities.

His caring nature is evident when he mentions that he derives simple satisfaction from just getting a hug from the people he helps.  Braun relays that there is often the misconception with food shelves that people are abusing the system.  However, in his eyes, if a family is struggling and they are hungry, they just have to eat. There are no two ways around hunger.

Braun hopes that 360 Communities’ new method of food distribution will help families get what they need.  At the end of the March of this year, the food shelf will be going to a shopping method with a menu like a restaurant.  Everything will be lined up on the shelves like a grocery store and families will go in and shop for what they need based upon the menu, instead of having volunteers  pick out the food items for them. With a background in the food business, working previously for a food distributor and broker before he retired, Braun is excited to help implement the organization of this system.

In addition to the new shopping method, Braun has also witnessed other changes at 360 Communities’ Burnsville food shelf location. One significant change is that Braun is buying more and more food from Second Harvest Heartland, a Midwest hunger relief organization that supports area food shelves.  Yet when he first started as a volunteer four years ago, he didn’t have to buy any food in addition to what was donated from area organizations and businesses.   Therefore, Braun indicates that the need is increasing, as he estimates that 360 Communities’ Burnsville location alone assists nearly 100 families a week.  Although the food he buys at Second Harvest is at an extremely discounted rate, Braun often spends around $1,000 or more a week when the donations coming in are sparse.

However, Braun is pleased to admit that the donations at Valley Natural Foods are increasing.  Braun comes to the co-op on Mondays and Wednesdays to pick up food donations.   Yet when he started four years ago, the co-op didn’t have a donation program.  Recognizing the need in the community, he made an effort to talk to the store’s produce and deli managers to see if he could pick up items weekly. Soon, the program caught on and he regularly has a cart plum full of produce and other food items to distribute to those in need.   On average Valley Natural Foods donates nearly 1,000 pounds of food a month but it hopes to increase this number during the March Minnesota FoodShare, along with raising $2,000.  The funds Valley Natural Foods donates will be used to purchase fresh produce for those in need at 360 Communities. Click here to learn more about Valley Natural Foods’ Minnesota March FoodShare Campaign.  We sincerely appreciate all of our customers’ efforts toward making our donation program a success!

Throughout Braun’s career he has never been out of a job, sometimes never having a day off in between some. He was lucky he says.  Now it is no different in retirement as he volunteers every week for 360 Communities. He hopes to spread that luck and good spirit around, helping people , dropping off and picking up food wherever and whenever he can.

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