Bay Citizen Quiz winner a Food Bank supporter, volunteer
The Food Bank recently partnered with The Bay Citizen to publish a quiz featuring some interesting Food Bank facts. In a karmic twist of fate, the winner of the quiz happened to be a Food Bank supporter and volunteer.
The winner, Tom Borromeo, volunteers at Fairfax Community Church food pantry and won a $100 gift card to Chef Tyler Florence's Wayfare Tavern and a signed copy of Mission Street Food Cookbook.
“I was jazzed. I was surprised,” Tom says of his reaction to winning the contest. He was so surprised he nearly threw out the email, mistaking the “Congratulations!” message for spam. But then he noticed “Wayfare Tavern” written in the subject line.
“I don’t usually go out for fancy meals but I was thinking about making a reservation for my next birthday,” Tom says.
Connecting with pantry participants
The Fairfax resident lives with his wife just a block away from the food pantry, which is run by the church and stocked with food from the Food Bank. Tom helps with general pantry set up and breakdown but he specializes in making people feel welcome.
On a recent Saturday, he plays the djembe as pantry participants select beans from a table next to him. A middle-aged woman walks up in a Maui sweatshirt. Tom tells her good morning and asks how she is. He then engages her in a conversation about Hawaii.
The woman says she visited the island several, several years ago, implying that at the time, she could afford such a vacation. Many pantry participants are formerly middle class but now find themselves seeking food assistance due to job loss or illness and mounting healthcare costs.
The woman and Tom talk about Maui some more, and she explains how it was so beautiful she cried when she had to leave for home.
“This is what I like,” Tom says, referring to the conversation. “I try to engage people as they come by. It’s amazing how responsive people are.”
A life philosophy: giving back
In the summer months, the Fairfax pantry is set up in the church courtyard. It maintains a true farmers’ market feel, as neighbors chat with one another and select fruits and vegetables to bring home for their families. Tom sees about 100-150 people a day coming through the pantry lines. He sees many of the people around town.
“It’s the perfect way to do a Saturday morning. I can’t think of a better way to start the weekend,” Tom says.
Tom began volunteering with the pantry about three months ago and he’s getting to know people by name. With the pastor’s blessing, he brings his drum to the pantry distribution. He plays it quietly and keeps up a conversation at the same time.
“A lot of people seem to like it. It sort of changes the energy. I see people dancing. And some people say ‘I’m going to bring my drum, too.’”
An artist and cartoonist by trade, volunteering is part of Tom’s life philosophy. He enjoys volunteering at the pantry because there’s a human connection and he can see that he’s filling a need.
“Community work is essential to keeping your life balanced. I don’t think of it as me serving anyone. I think they’re serving me.”