By Mike Dombkoski, Communications Intern
When it comes to searching for internships for University of Delaware students, the Food Bank of Delaware (FBD) probably doesn’t immediately catch the eye. Business students look for work with high ranking financial institutions, science majors may look at hospitals or research opportunities, and, somehow, a place that genuinely helps people the way the Food Bank does, gets overlooked.
I began my internship here at the Food Bank back in late May, and I’ll be finishing up my last week here in late August. I found out about the internship way back in the fall when communications director, Kim Turner (aka my current boss), came into my Intro to Public Relations class and I ended up having to do a project for FBD.
For many students, an unpaid internship at a small(-ish) non-profit may not jump out at them. For me, it was exactly what I was looking for. After a few months of hounding Kim every time she came to UD and harassing her with emails, I eventually set up an internship to work for her for the summer.
Going back to my first day in May, to be honest, I was pretty scared. I had worked plenty of jobs before, but as someone who had just finished his sophomore year, I had never worked an internship before and never in an office. Walking in to the building, I was immediately greeted by Kim, who had the first office on the right. She did her best to make me feel welcomed by introducing me to everyone who worked for the Food Bank.
And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.
She reassured me that I did not need to memorize everyone’s name right then, and my brain relaxed a little at that sentiment.
From there, I was thrown right into the mix. I remember calling my mom proudly that day to tell her about my day and showing off that I had worked right through lunch, not leaving my work to eat my packed peanut butter and jelly.
Now, of course, not every day was like this. Every business has its slow days and busy days, as does every internship. But working at an internship where I worked both in and out of the office was a refreshing, new experience.
In the first couple of weeks, I was able to meet NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon and Governor of Delaware Jack Markell through a couple of events. I have to admit, I would not have expected to meet such high profile people through an internship like this, but, lucky for me, I did.
But this internship was a lot more than just meeting people that I could show off to my friends and family for meeting. Some students can work internships where they work all day and rarely see how their company is affecting or helping people. That’s not the case here.
On more than one occasion, I got to see how the Food Bank helps Delaware and the people that they are helping. These are people who have lost jobs, family members, or can no longer work for whatever reason, and, without the help of the Food Bank, probably would not make it.
Two of my favorite moments of the internship came recently. One was at our mobile pantry at the Northeast State Services Center in Wilmington. Families were able to take home up to 30 pounds of food after taking a financial literacy class at the center. Seeing the truck out in that parking lot, the cast of Bank of America volunteers helping, and the genuine appreciation on the faces and in the words of the families who were receiving the food made it obvious why the employees at the Food Bank enjoy doing what they do.
The other moment came when Kim and I went with truck driver John Sease to watch him deliver produce to some of our feeding sites in the area. The volunteers helping with the food at each site seemed excited each time John pulled up to their loading zone. Sease would ask about everyone’s family and knew specific things about all of them. It was then that I realized the Food Bank provides a lot more than just food.
Through my three short months at the Food Bank, I learned a lot more than I would have working in just a “regular” office. I made friends, learned the inner workings of a food bank (no, you don’t just pick up the food directly from here), and learned skills that you cannot acquire sitting at a desk. I gained a greater appreciation of things. Most importantly, I learned it’s better to love a job by the work you are doing, and not by a paycheck.
Late into the internship, Kim made it a habit of preaching small life lessons every now and then. Some were serious, some funny, but all worth listening to. One definitely stuck with me.
If nothing else, the Food Bank of Delaware has taught me to appreciate my life more, think of others, and to never put myself above anyone else. I can truly understand the meaning of the word humble when I look at Kim and many of the other employees here fighting the never-ending problem of hunger in Delaware.
I can’t thank the Food Bank of Delaware, Kim Turner, and everyone else who helped me along the way enough. Thank you so much for this opportunity and I hope to see you all in the future.