Mercury Fuels Gets into the Spirit of the Holiday Season with Volunteerism

Mercury Fuels Gets into the Spirit of the Holiday Season with Volunteerism

On December 22nd, with the 2017 holiday season well underway, a group of employees from Mercury Fuels headed to the Houston Food Bank to volunteer their time. The excursion was in lieu of their holiday party: instead of giving frivolous or white elephant gifts, they instead opted to gift their time to those in need.

“We just realize that there's people in our community who have less than us, and what better way to extend a gift to them?” said Executive Vice President Chris Cooper. “The entire team adopted the concept really whole heartedly - everyone was really excited about it,” he said.  

The Houston-based office headed to the local food bank, one of a handful of food banks in Texas.

Why a Food Bank?

It turns out that Chris Cooper has a twin brother, Eric, and that brother is heavily involved in the Texas Food Bank scene: Eric Cooper is the President and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank.

Chris Cooper provided an abbreviated version of how a food bank works: a food bank serves as a consortium of a restaurant, a grocery and a food drive-type consolidator. From that consolidation, they’re able to sort and prepare the food for dispersion out to soup kitchens, shelters, etc. where it’s most urgently needed. Giving an example, Cooper pointed out that there’s probably a lot of the same items, say garbanzo beans, that get donated in a food drive. Since homeless people can’t consume a diet entirely of garbanzo beans, he said, the food bank steps in to prepare meals from the variety of items they receive. “So when the garbanzo bean pile comes in, they can disperse that as a functional meal,” he explained.

While the Red Cross or United Way or a local soup kitchen may be the face of the meal from the families’ point of view, “it’s really the food bank that’s providing that food to then be dispersed by those agencies,” Cooper said.  

Also, he pointed out, it’s not just food. It’s things like diapers or bottled water, that people in a crisis situation can use.

For the MercFuel team, their role was in sorting through the incoming donations, whether from a grocery store or food drive, and then organizing those items into useable containers or boxes.

When MercFuel Operations Coordinator Katrina McBride first heard about the volunteer opportunity, she thought they were going to be preparing meals for the homeless.  “Instead, we went to a service center, and helped to sort all the products that come in and then go out to other agencies so they can prepare the meals,” she said.

“There were tons of people there, and just to see how huge the operation was, and how many people it helped… it really put things into perspective to see how much people don’t have when you see all that they would need,” she said.

“It was a very humbling experience,” Katrina said. “It was also a great teambuilding experience, and it gave us the opportunity to work together on something you felt was really helping out humanity during the holiday season,” she said.

She enjoyed it so much that she is considering volunteering again, and next time, bringing along her son. “I saw some entire families there – they’d brought their kids out,” she said. “I thought it’d be a great opportunity to introduce my own son to volunteering, so he can see how blessed he is,” she said.

Cooper said that he plans to lead the volunteer experience twice a year, once in the summer months and again during the holidays. “Going forward, we're trying to avoid seeing the holiday season as being a time of receiving, and we’re really creating an environment of giving,” he said. 

“There's no better way than to identify the people that really needed to receive and that's the community,” Cooper said.

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