The Volunteer Program Branches Out to Mansfield

This month, Stacey Terlik celebrates her first anniversary as Manager of Volunteer Services at Community Servings. Year one has been, to say the least, eventful. Three recently recruited volunteer coordinators are reporting to Stacey. She greets hundreds of on-site volunteers every week. Most significantly, a newly opened satellite facility means a new branch of the volunteer program. “It’s been wonderful,” Stacey says of her first year. “I came in at a time when there was already so much established and so much room for growth, like in Mansfield.”

A town in Southeastern Massachusetts, Mansfield is the location of the new distribution center, which now houses Community Servings’ shipping program and is allowing the agency to deliver medically tailored meals to new and existing clients in Central and Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and Rhode Island. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in early March, and among that gathering of elected officials, philanthropic donors, and healthcare professionals was an eager contingent of regular volunteers at the agency’s Boston headquarters.

Establishing a volunteer program in Mansfield will, by Stacey’s admission, take time. But the potential is apparent. “Mansfield feels like a town and community that really wants to help,” Stacey says. “Everyone knows their neighbor. You can feel that. We’re still finding our footing. I’m super hopeful we can engage with the local community, introduce ourselves and what we do, and build a wonderful, consistent volunteer base, like we have in Boston.”

The culture of Community Servings’ Boston headquarters is indelibly marked by its volunteers. One of those dedicated volunteers is Hank Diamond. Since he started volunteering 14 years ago, Hank has become known as an institutional historian and a prolific conversation partner. “He’s a social butterfly,” Stacey says. “He floats and talks to everybody. He has his station in the kitchen. He’s greeting people, saying good morning.”

Hank Diamond, a volunteer

Volunteer Hank Diamond

“He’s like the mayor,” says Executive Chef Dianna MacPhee, through irrepressible laughter. “He’s a free spirit. He’s ‘that guy.’ Hank Diamond. You can’t make it up. The conversation never stops when Hank’s around. He’s always having a conversation.”

Recalling the time he discovered Community Servings, Hank says, “I really fell in love with the place.” It was the mission, he explains. It was the dedication of the staff. And it was also the consistent message. “There’s never been a day when I work here that people don’t thank you. Everybody’s appreciative of what you do.”

This National Volunteer Month, we have the honor of celebrating volunteers like Hank Diamond, whose dedication to Community Servings empowers the organization so significantly — and keeps it on task.

Volunteers like Hank don’t just give their time. They make Community Servings a place of genuine and whole-hearted service. They share their compassion, year after year. It’s worth mentioning they aren’t asked to do this. They just do it. They want to do it. And the benefits to Community Servings, to our presence in the communities where we operate, both Boston and Mansfield, are tremendous and distinctive.

Stacey tells a story from last winter: A snowstorm shut down the Orange Line, which Hank depends on to commute in. So, all the way from Roslindale, a distance of three miles and through inclement weather, he walked to his volunteer shift.

“What’s inspiring to somebody who’s newer like me is his commitment,” Stacey says, “and it makes you want to be committed too. In every way.”

“Part of the Fabric Here”

Hank was a teacher for 35 years, originally teaching health and physical education and later teaching computer education. After retiring, Hank heard about Community Servings from a friend. A food lover, he wanted to support a food nonprofit. “My son’s a chef. I’m a cook,” Hank says. “There’s nothing better than seeing food being cooked.”

Now, every Tuesday and Thursday, Hank serves in food production alongside Head Chefs Darryl Branch and Jorge Torres and Cooks Elsa Stengel and Juan Vazquez. They have become tightly knit over the years. “It’s impossible not to get to know them. You bond a lot closer and know the people, and it makes you feel good.”

What’s it like to supervise a kitchen staffed by so many volunteer chefs? Chef Dianna’s reply comes right away: “It’s pretty spectacular, actually. It’s really neat when Doris and Bev and Hank and Lakshmi are all here. They know each other so well. They literally become part of the fabric here.”

For volunteer Ruth Ann Nelson, helping others has long been part of life. She volunteered for years in her home state of Maryland with the Literacy Council of Montgomery Country. But when she recently lost her husband, Ruth Ann began to split her time between Maryland and Boston, where she lives with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson in Jamaica Plain. She was soon, at the suggestion of her family, volunteering at Community Servings. “I was looking for something that would make me feel good and do some good,” Ruth Ann explains. “My whole family likes to cook. I like to make people happy with food.”

Ruth Ann Nelson, a volunteer

Executive Chef Dianna MacPhee with volunteer Ruth Ann Nelson

During the morning shift on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ruth Ann supports Chef Dianna in production. “I chop. I strip herbs. I prepare and package cookies. I help with the bread.” It’s quite different from what Ruth Ann was doing during her 40-year career in the tech industry. “I used to manage hundreds of people,” she says with a smile. “Now I manage herbs and bake cookies. And it feels good!”

The feeling is mutual among staff. “Ruth just makes me smile,” Stacey says. “She’s just a lovely person. Any staff member she interacts with ends up having a lovely conversation with her.”

And like Hank, Ruth Ann carries Community Servings into her personal life. After chatting about the agency with her grandson, a student at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamaica Plain, her grandson decided to donate half of the revenue from his lemonade stand to Community Servings. (The other half was earmarked for animal rescue funding.)

Ruth Ann can identify personally with the daily-living limitations that clients face, and how those limitations can become barriers to attaining the best possible health. Ruth Ann was recently hospitalized for a hip operation, after which she recovered at home for three months. It was difficult to move during that time. It was challenging to move up and down stairs, and challenging to prepare food while standing. “I know what that felt like, when my family went to work and I had to prepare food for myself,” Ruth Ann remembers. For that reason, Ruth Ann says, “I’m feeling good about what I’m doing and who gets the food.”

For Sakshi Bubna, too, the agency’s mission hits close to home.

A graduate student in biotechnology at Northeastern University, Sakshi learned about Community Servings during an internship with Takeda Pharmaceuticals, a funder and supporter. After the internship, Sakshi decided to volunteer herself, independently and of her own initiative. She wanted to help others get through “their difficult period.” Her brother is a cancer survivor, and food carries personal significance for Sakshi. “Food brings love,” she says. “When you send that message, whatever role you’re playing, that really transcends [their circumstances].”

Sakshi Bubna, a volunteer

Volunteer Sakshi Bubna

Sakshi first volunteered in August 2023. Since then, she has settled into a rhythm of volunteering in the packaging kitchen and is closing in on her goal of 100 volunteer hours. (Sakshi was at 85 at the time of this writing.) Sakshi has multiplied her contributions by enlisting an on-campus group to volunteer alongside her. The group, Graduate Women in Science Engineering, volunteers in the packaging kitchen once a month, portioning, traying, and sealing prepared meals. Since their very first shift, their attitude has been consistent: “‘When can we come back?’”

“The entire group really mirrors Sakshi’s vibrancy,” Stacey says of these five to ten volunteers. “They work really hard. They have fun. They’re very intelligent young women interested in the sciences. They grasp the health benefits of the work they’re doing. They’ve been a wonderful, consistent group of volunteers.”

“This has become a happy place of mine,” Sakshi says of Community Servings. When asked about her experience of volunteers and staff, about what it’s like to work alongside them, her answer is radiant: “I love them! I really like them! They’re so inclusive and encouraging. Since the first day, it felt like family.”

“It Felt Like Family”

Years of intentional choices at Community Servings have curated this kind of culture. It’s what CEO David B. Waters, himself a Community Servings volunteer in the early 1990s, refers to as “joy and optimism,” the “light within the building” that can offer relief from the challenges of life in general.

It’s not a top-down phenomenon. Staff at all levels carry this culture with them as they come alongside volunteers and create spaces of welcome, where everyone can apply their assets and gifts. Under this norm, everyone can get in on the mission.

On Mondays and Thursdays, Community Servings hosts volunteer groups from LABBB Collaborative, an inclusive education program that provides skills training and support services for young people who have a disability. (The name stands for the towns Lexington, Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, and Burlington whose public schools partner with LABBB.)

One Thursday in late February, morning light fills the Community Room in Boston, where Arthur, a LABBB student, is doing “bag-and-bags.” That’s the internal term for stuffing a brown paper delivery bag inside a protective outer bag. LABBB Transition Counselor Sara Carver sits nearby, deftly balancing questions from her interviewer and periodic check-ins with Arthur and the other students. At a separate table, Sasha, diligent and quick, is also bag-and-bagging, and at another, Avery greets passersby with a grin and a wave as she decorates brown paper bags. The atmosphere is focused but easygoing. Students Max and Dan later chat about their travels during the recent February break, Dan to New York, Max to Florida.

Students from LABBB Collaborative at Community Servings

Students from LABBB Collaborative prep meal bags

Sara notices and compliments tasks completed, skills demonstrated, and progress made. “Arthur, I think we cracked the code this week,” she says, admiring his progress. Arthur’s father is an EMT. As he prepares bags, Arthur talks about the end result of his volunteering, the help provided to people who are living with illness. “LABBB is so cool,” Stacey says. “They get what we do here. The staff communicates that to the students. A lot of them come the whole academic year. You can see the holistic progress they make.”

Later, during another shift in Boston, this one on a rainy March morning, Will and Adam, students from LABBB’s Belmont cohort, volunteer in the packaging kitchen. It’s a bustling scene. Northeastern students are stationed nearby, getting portions into serving trays, singing along with the music playing loudly on the audio system. Greg Yannekis, a long-term volunteer, recites meal quantities out loud—”24, no fish”—as he retrieves them from a walk-in freezer. A crew of volunteers loads meal trays in and out of the industrial sealer machine. And at a worktable lined with electric scales stand Will and Adam, portioning a massive container of couscous salad to the measurements our clients require. Nearby but giving the students space is LABBB Vocational Instructor Keith Edmeade, bagging fully sealed meals. From time to time, Keith steps closer to take in how the students are doing, maybe offering a word or two and then leaving them to it.

Volunteer Adam works in meal packaging in Boston

Volunteer Adam portions couscous salad in Boston

When you spend time with students from LABBB, sharing the space as they work, there are moments when the skills they’re honing are practiced in real time, sometimes in conversation with a counselor like Keith or Sara, often independently. It could be learning when and how to ask for help, apply instructions, or self-advocate. Or it could be different forms of emotional self-regulation and motivational coaching. “One time I had a bit of difficulty tying a knot,” Will shares with his interviewer, describing a recent shift in meal packaging, “but I got past that.” Will relates this story again to Stacey the following week, announcing confidently, “I really worked on it. I worked on it this week!”

Keep Them Coming Back    

Long before it occurred to Stacey to manage a volunteer program, she spent a year volunteering with an urban farm and skills-training program in St. Louis called City Seeds. She shadowed licensed social workers as they ran programs for returning citizens and people experiencing homelessness. Over the course of that year, Stacey gradually realized how her interest in food connected with another interest: people. The experience caught her attention. “It was just the experience of working with people, people from all different backgrounds.” It was the experience of “everybody working toward a common goal for food access.”

This memory resembles the reality that’s starting to emerge in Mansfield.

“Almost daily we have people coming,” Stacey says during a conversation in early March. “It’s been cool to see what’s happened in just three weeks.” On this particular rainy day, it was a group of volunteers from the Mansfield bottle and can redemption center. The day prior it was a group from House of Possibilities (HOPe) in Easton, which provides services to children, teens, and adults with disabilities. (Since then, HOPe has returned to volunteer once a week.) Point32Health, a healthcare company headquartered in nearby Canton, recently sent a team.

A community group volunteers in Mansfield

The Community Harvest Project team volunteers in Mansfield

Debra Lefkowitz, a resident of nearby Sharon, volunteered in Mansfield just two days after the distribution center opened. But she’s no stranger to Community Servings. Approaching retirement in 2019, Debra floated a question on social media: Would other women in and around Sharon like to chat about retirement’s opportunities? Debra received 40 responses. A group got started under the name SWIRL, short for Sharon Women Involved in Retirement Life. Today SWIRL has 200 members, many of whom volunteer in both Boston and Mansfield. Since 2020, SWIRL has contributed 13 group shifts and volunteered over 180 hours. Fifteen SWIRL members are now volunteering regularly in Mansfield. “It’s a great opportunity to do good in the community. We just love it,” Debra says of Community Servings. “It’s fabulous. It’s just a first-class operation.”

When the Mansfield facility opened, Debra jumped at the shorter commute. “You can’t beat the convenience of Mansfield,” she says.

“I didn’t know who was going to be there,” she says of her first shift in Mansfield. “But turns out, my neighbor next door was volunteering. She said she hadn’t volunteered since she was 16. So here we are, neighbors next door, and I think we chatted more during our time there than we would have in 10 months.”

Debra tells the story of another encounter, at temple last summer, when she was approached by the husband of a fellow SWIRL member. Having heard that Debra was responsible for connecting people to Community Servings, he said, “I just have to thank you. I’ve started to go and I just love the place!” Debra says this SWIRL husband has since brought the basketball team from Sharon High School to Mansfield for a volunteer shift.

Word of mouth continues to serve Community Servings well as it expands in a new geography. If you know someone who may want to partner with us, especially someone in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island—a local student group, say, or a community organization or a business—send them our way! We’re counting on friends of the agency during this pivotal moment. Visit us on Instagram or Facebook for details about upcoming events, such as a Mansfield Open House. Community members can sign up for a guided tour of the Mansfield facility and, as always, sign up to volunteer. Your contributions are vital to the agency, especially now and especially in Mansfield.


Hank offers a point of view that relates to fostering a new undertaking like the volunteer program in Mansfield. “Organizations need to get people back,” he observes. “The way you get people back is by treating them with appreciation and respect. And I’ve only seen positive results in this organization over the last 14 years.”

Each Community Servings volunteer receives a branded hat. You can usually spot newer volunteers by the pristine condition of that hat: dark navy blue, stiff brimmed, and just out of the package. But amid the on-site bustle, you can spot another kind of volunteer, as well, usually wearing embroidered aprons of green or gray cloth. Green aprons mean 100 hours served. Gray aprons mean 1,000. This is the kind of volunteer for whom volunteering, over time, has developed into something simpler — simpler and more heartfelt. For them, volunteering is just life, and it’s a part of life they cherish.

Hank Diamond volunteers in Boston

Volunteers William McDermott (left) and Hank Diamond (right)

May it be said, few volunteers have a Community Servings apron and hat that resemble Hank’s. Meeting Hank, the apron and the hat are one of the first things you notice. They are telling signs of who Hank is, signs of both his winsome idiosyncrasy and his dedication. The body of the apron, where the waist ties pass through, is visibly rumpled, permanently cinched. The fabric is the color of parchment paper after it’s been in the oven. The apron is well-worn, off-white, almost beige. There’s not the current Community Servings logo but a vintage one: a rectangular rendering of a steaming bowl of soup. The current logo, of a Dutch oven, appears on Hank’s hat, but not in the typical bright orange. It’s sun-faded, marked by hundreds of hours in the kitchen, and also marked, probably more so, by cross-country road trips and dog-walks in the Arnold Arboretum. This hat is Hank’s go-to, in daily life as in volunteering. There are no stains, no rips. The use and the signs of long care, it all shows. “And I have an even older one,” Hanks says of the apron. “It just makes you feel you’ve really put a lot of time in.”

Like the apron and the hat, proudly worn and cared for over time, it’s in the hands of volunteers that the work of Community Servings is loved, sustained, and made into something special. Something proven through peer-reviewed research, yes. Something vital to healthcare, yes. Something advanced in policy advocacy, yes. But also, simply, special.

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