Suzan Perry volunteers during her shift at the Durham Community Food Pantry placing a vegetable into a box.

Suzan Perry volunteers during her shift at the Durham Community Food Pantry.

Suzan Perry started volunteering with the Durham Community Food Pantry in April 2020, right as the food pantry was adapting to distributing groceries during COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, many volunteers had decided to stay home for their safety, leaving a gap in serving the community. Staff conducted outreach efforts to find additional volunteers, which successfully recruited new dedicated helpers like Perry.

“Without new volunteers like Suzan, we would not have been able to respond to COVID-19 like we did.” shared David Juarez-Torres, Durham Community Food Pantry Program Director.

Hearing the call for volunteers, Perry stepped up to serve those in need.

“I taught for over 40 years and I love to help people, I just had to do something.” shared Perry. “I was called here [Durham Community Food Pantry] for a reason. I am truly amazed at how much good this place does.”

Due to her trademark humility, it was noted by other staff that that it is more accurate to say Perry does everything. In her primary role, Perry helps setup and prepare groceries for distribution. Three days each week, she leads the handling, sorting, and packaging of produce. In addition to these responsibilities, she regularly volunteers on additional days to process food drives or assist with deliveries and pick-ups.

Volunteers pack food into boxes.

On days she isn’t present at the Durham Community Food Pantry, she still finds ways to show her support. Since beginning as a volunteer, she has organized very successful food drives with the UNC Newman Center. She also coordinates both new and veteran volunteers and is always ready to help wherever needed.

“Her positive attitude and excitement are infectious and make the working in the pantry a delight.” shared Juarez-Torres. “Clients benefit from her dedication to always provide large quantities of the best possible produce.”

Perry is also recognized by the neighboring Food Lion from the many times she fills carts with feminine hygiene products to supplement regular shortages that occur.

Volunteers work to pack boxes of food.

Perry also volunteers with many other organizations and taps her expertise as a certified Master Gardener with N.C. Cooperative Extension to grow greens and herbs to distribute to clients as they wait for food boxes. Her plants quickly find new homes among those interested in growing their own food and are a highlight of the distribution.

“We are glad she found another home here with the Durham Community Food Pantry.” shared Juarez-Torres.