Feeding the Hungry: Behind the Scenes

Posted by Union Gospel Mission Feb 27, 2018 1:50:34 PM

Anna Havercroft is our warehouse manager, managing the in-kind donations that come into UGM. As you'll see in her interview below, that is more than a full-time job!

Meet Anna Havercroft, Warehouse Manager

 

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got connected to the Union Gospel Mission.

The Union Gospel Mission has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My dad, Gayle, worked at two local downtown churches while I was growing up, and he would tell people who were passing by asking for money that they can get a meal at UGM. I distinctly remember him giving them directions.

My dad has been working for UGM for over 12 years as the Facilities Manager and it is really because of him that I am working here too. I applied for a position at our Coeur d’Alene facility when it was opening. I didn’t get the job, but a few months later I received a call about a job opening in Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall and was hired.

Anna leads a team that accepts over $4.2 million worth of donations every year to feed the hungry.

I have lived in Spokane my entire life except for about 8 months when I lived in Strathmore, Alberta, while I was going to Bible college. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education but decided that I didn’t want to teach at a middle school or high school. That’s what led me to apply for the Children’s Ministry Assistant position at AOH.

You’ve worn a few different hats at UGM so far. How did each prepare you for the next one?

I have had five different job titles in about five and a half years. I started part-time as the Children’s Ministry Assistant at the “Yellow House” at Anna Ogden Hall with the school-age kids in the afternoons. We would do Bible Studies, games, activities, and field trips. I loved working with the kids and felt that I was able to use my degree in a positive way.

I moved into a full-time position as the Lead Resident Advisor and House Facilitator at AOH. There I supervised the Resident Advisor team that works overnight and on the weekends. I was responsible for keeping the house safe and organized, and it was there that I first got introduced to our donors and donation process, which I grew to love.

That love led me to work at our Downtown Thrift Store. I started at the store as the Production Supervisor and a couple of months later, there was a restructuring of leadership and I was promoted to Production Manager. I missed the ladies at AOH, but I soon realized that I still was able to work with our residents as we employ some of them in Employment Training Opportunities.  I was responsible for the production staff and making sure that the donations were being accepted, processed and put out on the sales floor.

It amazed me how much Spokane supports UGM with their giving and was constantly surprised by what came in as donations. In May of 2016, God spoke to me and told me that it was time for me to move on from the Thrift Store. This shocked me, because I loved my job and loved the team that I worked with and couldn’t imagine leaving. I prayed and asked God to show me the job that he wanted me to have, and the next day the Warehouse Manager position was offered to me.

Driving the forklift is just one piece of what it takes to feed the hungry at UGM.

I know that working in the Warehouse is where I am supposed to be. I still get to work with the donations that I love, but on a whole new level. Not only do I still get to work with our clothing, housewares, and furniture donations, but I also get to accept over $4.2 million worth of food donations every year.

Early on, I realized that I had very little experience running such a large operation, but God had already put everything in place to send me the help I needed. I have been hugely blessed by the men who stay here and who work alongside me on a daily basis. They have helped me in my journey as I have also helped them in their journey of recovery.

What does a “typical” day entail in the warehouse? What’s your favorite part of your job? Your least favorite?

Each day is very different from the one before it. I can never predict what is going to come in, if it will be a lot or a little. A typical day includes accepting food donations from our Grocery Rescue and Business Partners that our food driver goes out and picks up. After a delivery, my crew and I go through and organize all of the donations into our two walk-in refrigerators, our two walk-in freezers or the warehouse. We decide if we are going to keep all or some of the donations, or if we will give them to our partners who pick up our excess food donations.

My favorite part of my job is seeing what comes in every day and being able to organize it. No matter how large or how small the donation, we have always had enough. God has been faithful to provide for all of our needs here, and we have never run out of food. I am a highly organized person and I love organizing the food so that our five kitchens can better use it.

My least favorite part is working outside in the extreme cold and hot, or if it is snowing or raining. But I also love working outside on nice days when it isn’t too hot or too cold. Those days make up for all of the extreme weather days.

 Anna appreciates the relationships she builds with residents while working to feed the hungry at UGM.

You deal with our gift-in-kind partners daily. What would you say are their most common reasons for giving?

There are many reasons that people give to UGM. The most common reason is that they believe in what we do here. Others have had family members who have been homelessor have been addicted to drugs or alcohol. They know that by giving to UGM, we are helping end the cycle of homelessness and addiction.

You often share with UGM staff about perfectly-timed and abundant donations we’ve received to fill a need. Can you share one or two of those stories here?

One morning, I heard about a semi-truck that had been in an accident on I-90. I quickly prayed that we would get whatever was in the truck donated to us. I was jumping for joy when I got the call that we were going to get some of the contents of the truck. The lesson in this is to be careful what you pray for, because it was a truck full of flour. (I was hoping for bacon.)

We received about 25,000 pounds of flour. With the abundance of flour, I was able to bless each staff member who wanted one with a 50-pound bag. I was also able to give one pallet to a local bakery that in turn brings us fresh bread, and gave one pallet to a local pig farmer who in turn donated a pig to us, so I guess I did get a little bacon out of the deal.

Over and over we are blessed beyond my wildest imagination with food. Each day is a new surprise because I never know what is going to come in. God provides way more food than what is needed here on site, and thus I get to bless others with our abundance.

Anna built her skills through several other positions helping the homeless before becoming Warehouse Manager at UGM. 

UGM and other organizations feeding the hungry share food donations with each other. Can you describe how that works?

We serve about 25 outside ministries - smaller food banks, pantries, etc. Each ministry partner comes once a week and receives our overabundance of food. This is a great partnership, because otherwise a lot of food would go to waste. Instead we are able to reach even more people with the food God provides. By giving our abundance of food away, we are being good stewards of God’s gifts. If we didn’t share it with other ministries, the blessings might stop.

Our ministry partners also bless us in amazing ways. I have a partner who donates napkins to us whenever we need them. We give them food on a weekly basis and we save money on napkins.

Each of our ministry partners is very grateful for the food that we give them and show their gratitude in a multitude of ways. One of our partners blessed the warehouse crew with lattes from their church as a way to say thank you. Others show their gratitude with a huge smile and hugs. It is a blessing for us to give food away and see the joy on the people’s faces who will share God’s bounty.

Tell us about one of the most memorable gifts you’ve seen come in and how it was used.

Just a few weeks ago, I prayed for a large load because our donations had been down and our coolers were a little bare. February seems to be our slowest donation month, especially for fresh produce.

The lesson in this is to be specific in your prayer. I received a call about having 6 pallets of salad donated. They were rejected from Safeway, but were still good. The 6 pallets of salad turned out to be 14 pallets of vegetables, or about 10,000 pounds. No salad.

Needless to say, we have been eating very healthy here. This donation has meant that I am able to hand out fresh vegetables to our ministry partners who in turn are feeding more people.

You supervise a number of Men’s Shelter residents doing their work assignments. How has working with them impacted you?

The men who are assigned to work in the warehouse have been a huge blessing. Looking back, I know that I would have failed in this job if it hadn’t been for Ben Riggs.

Early on, I realized that I was in way over my head, having never managed a large operation before, and I was going to need help. Ben checked in about 3 weeks after I started working in the Warehouse and he soon entered the LIFE Recovery Program. He is far more skilled than I am, but he came alongside me and we figured this whole thing out together. He knows the daily operations as well as I do, and I always looked to him to help train the new guys. I owe my success in the warehouse to him.

Sometimes the warehouse workers get a few goodies while they work to feed the hungry at UGM.

Even though Ben taught me a lot, my favorite thing he taught me was how to drive our forklift using two feet instead of one. You can go a lot faster and it is a lot more fun. Ben has since finished the recovery program and is working full time. His presence is missed, but his legend lives on. I know that I can’t have all of the guys stay forever. That is the hardest part about my job: Letting them go, especially the ones who have made a difference.

There have been many others who have made a huge impact in my life. Dave was my fitness coach. Kasey was always the quiet one, but a huge teddy bear. Mark loved to talk about music and I was always amazed at his knowledge of bands. Dominic drove most of us crazy, but he always had a smile on his face and loved to laugh. Curtis implemented a morning prayer time, a time for us to stop as a team and start the day off right. James was my confidant, protector, and co-pilot. We could talk for hours and I trusted him completely. Plus he kept the Warehouse spotless and made the best Mexican food and salsa. There are many more men and many more stories, too many to share.

I wish that I had the name of every man who has worked with me over the last year and a half. Some have worked with me for the majority of time that I have been here, others only a few months or days. Each man has a unique story and background. But together, we somehow have made a family. I respect each and every one of them and the journey that they are on. They have all left their mark and I am proud to call several of them my friends.

Gratitude is Anna's main response for God's abundant blessings through the community to feed the hungry. 

 How has working at UGM changed your perspective on homelessness?

Homeless men are no longer faceless to me. I might not know everyone’s name, as there are unfortunately too many, but I know their faces. Driving down the road, I might see someone that I recognize, who has been a guest here, and I always wonder how they are doing. I love when our residents come back and say hi. This allows me to know that they are doing OK and that our programs really do work.

Each man is unique in his own way. I have men working with me who are highly educated, but have fallen on hard times. Each one of us can fall on hard times and end up at one of our shelters, which keeps me humble. It helps me to remember to treat these men with respect. To care for them the best I know how.

What is a favorite Scripture or truth that helps you in your daily work?

While I was attending Bible College in Canada, Psalms 46:10 kept coming back to me over and over: “Be still and know that I am God.” This scripture reminds me to pause and to trust in the Lord. It reminds me that if there are things that are out of my control, that God already has a plan and that I can trust in that plan.

What do you like to do outside of work to recharge?

I love to walk outside while it is warm. There is something about putting in your headphones and just walking that is so relaxing to me. I love spending time in the beauty of God’s creation. I love gardening, tending to my vegetables, and then being able to enjoy the fruit of my labor and eat what I have grown. I don’t like weeding though. I love reading, especially crime solving mysteries. My favorite author is Tess Gerritsen, who writes medical murder mystery novels. And I love watching movies and relaxing at the end of the day.  

What do you want UGM donors and other partners to know about what goes on from day to day at UGM?

Without our faithful donors, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We wouldn’t be able to serve 1,000 meals a day. Food is the first basic need that we meet when people walk through our doors, so it is a huge part of what we are about. I am truly grateful to all of our donors who give so generously.

 

As Anna made pretty clear, stewardship is a core value we take seriously at UGM. When you give to a charity the way our partners do, you have a right to know what your partnership is doing. Here are some tips on how to choose wisely when you give. 

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Topics: partnership

 

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