Volunteers for Caring for Friends prepare meal trays that can be delivered to homebound seniors and the disabled, to be warmed up at home for a nutritious meal, and the company of visitors.

Caring for Friends, the independent food bank serving greater Philadelphia, named its top volunteers for 2021 during National Volunteer Week, April 18-22.

CFF relied on a network of more than 10,000 volunteers last year to pack and distribute 12 million pounds of food to families and individuals; deliver more than half a million meals to homebound seniors, veterans and people with disabilities; and provide 400 servings of food monthly to people experiencing homelessness.

The organization meets its mission to ensure no one goes hungry or alone in a world of caring people due to the following generous people:

  • Rita Ungaro-Schiavone Volunteer of the Year Award: Arlene and Tony Urbanski. Named for the Caring for Friends founder, this award honors the Northeast Philadelphia couple for their lifetime contributions to CFF and the more than 100 homebound people to whom they’ve provided food and friendship over four decades. The Urbanskis, who are seniors themselves, have been visiting homebound individuals since CFF’s inception 48 years ago when they met and worked with CFF founder Rita Schiavone. They kept visiting homebound people throughout COVID and continue to do so now.
  • Caring Company of the Year: ACME Markets. In addition to providing a thousand Thanksgiving meals for families, ACME also generously donated needed protein to neighbors facing hunger throughout 2021. As need continued to be at an all-time high last year due to the pandemic, ACME also provided a $50,000 grant through its Nourishing Neighbors program to help feed the high number of people in need.
  • Caring Community Organization of the Year: Rotary Club of Glenside. The mission of this group is “Service Above Self” and it is a group of professionals who believe in committing to service. They visit Caring for Friends’ Northeast Philadelphia warehouse two weekends a month to pick up food and deliver it to up to 40 homebound seniors in North and West Philadelphia as well as several people in Montgomery and Bucks counties. They have also donated and purchased needed food items, volunteered in the CFF warehouse cooking meals and donated money toward the purchase of a freezer which stocks meals for homebound seniors, veterans and those with disabilities.
  • Caring Faith-Based Organization of the Year: Pastor Luisa and Glacia de Milagro. Pastor Luisa has worked with CFF for three years, bringing food and friendship to unserved people in the North Philadelphia community six days a week, and she is “on call” on Sundays as well. She also delivers food to seniors’ homes, provides grocery bags for her congregation to fill and distributes food and toiletries as she ministers to about 300 people facing homelessness in Kensington each month.
  • Caring Kitchen Award: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Part of the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is to contribute to community through service. For the past five years, the group has been volunteering up to four times a week in the CFF warehouse kitchen making meals, sandwiches for people experiencing homelessness, and snack bags for kids in need. Last year church members also donated 40,000 pounds of much-needed dry goods.
  • Caring Kitchen Volunteers: John and Rose Kirby. John, a VP at Philadelphia Insurance Company, is the co-leader of the Monday and Tuesday night volunteer shifts in the CFF kitchen. He has recruited colleagues, family, friends and others to join him, including his mother, who volunteers with him every Monday night; they both reside in Bensalem. Since COVID, the Monday and Tuesday night groups have made over 200,000 meals for homebound people. John’s passion is cooking and helping others and he believes “there is no better way to combine the two than volunteering Monday and Tuesday evenings in the kitchen at Caring for Friends.”

More awardees include:

  • Caring Driver of the Year: Chris Wilson at Seven Mile Road Church, Northeast Philadelphia. Chris picks up meals every two weeks to deliver to 20 homebound people.
  • Caring Visitor of the Year: Jeff Frazier. Jeff currently delivers meals to 22 people throughout Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia counties. He was initially connected to CFF as part of the Glenside Rotary Saturday team, and has since committed to deliver one day a week.
  • Caring Cooking Church of the Year: St. Martin of Tours, New Hope, Bucks County. For the past eight years, St. Martin of Tours has been a leading senior meals partner, making and donating thousands of meals as well as providing monetary donations to support neighbors in need.
  • Caring School of the Year: New Foundations Charter School, a K-12 school in Northeast Philadelphiathat made sandwiches, volunteered, provided interns and donated to help neighbors in need last year.
  • Caring Office Volunteer: Marianne Bonner. Northeast Philadelphia resident Marianne works in the office at least three days a week and helps with the phones, mailings and special projects. Since she started volunteering in June 2021, she has volunteered 400 hours.
  • Caring Snack Room Volunteer: Philip Zucker. A resident of the Northeast, Philip has volunteered almost 700 hours since he began working with CFF in 2020. He helps pack snack bags three days a week and trains people for the task.
  • Caring Warehouse Volunteer: Daniel Coonan. Daniel, a Northeast Philadelphia resident, volunteers every week with St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Germantown. He recruits and runs the Thursday shift. He also facilitates meal production by delivering trays to St. Katherine of Siena Church and bringing meals back to the Northeast warehouse.

CFF seeks volunteers to help make 100,000 extra meals a month for families and individuals struggling due to inflation. To learn more or sign up for a shift, visit CaringForFriends.org.