On any given day, Darryl James is helping out.
Whether he is unloading trucks and packing food hampers at the Churches By the Bluffs Food Bank or shoveling snow at Birchcliff Bluffs United Church, James is volunteering in some capacity.
To recognize his dedication and commitment to helping others, the United Church has awarded him the Baillie Volunteer Service Award.
The award was created from a bequest in 2010 by James Baillie, a United Church member, as a way to offer a “hand up” to young people. In addition to honouring young volunteers for their work, the award includes $500 to assist with education, travel, or personal care. James, 26, plans to use his to return to school.
“I think it’s a really nice thing to be recognized for what I’ve been doing for so long,” said James.
James, who grew up in the Birchcliff Bluffs neighbourhood, began volunteering at the Churches By the Bluffs Food Bank when he was in Grade 7, motivated by a newspaper appeal from Gail Barkic, the food bank’s coordinator.
“I read in the Beach Metro that they needed volunteers, so I called Gail,” he said.
Barkic said he phoned her several times a week for three weeks to convince her he was ready to take on the responsibility, and points out he worked every Thursday evening throughout Grades 7 and 8, even during holidays.
By the time he got into high school, where students are required by the Ministry of Education to fulfil 40 hours of community service, James was already well ahead of the game. In fact, she said, he became part of the food bank family.
His first job involved packing grocery hampers for distribution to families who use the food bank.
“I started out unloading trucks and packing the clients’ orders,” he said. “Now I’ve gotten more into a leadership position.”
Currently James helps guide and direct about 100 volunteers who take care of the task he started out doing – packing food baskets for the 600 clients who use the food bank’s service on a weekly basis.
“On (delivery day) Wednesdays, I’m one of the first people in, and I mostly do re-packing and inventory,” he said.
He helps divide large lots of food appropriately, deciding what should go in each client’s basket, based on the family’s size and specific needs. He then helps the drivers figure out the best routes to minimize neighbourhood disruption.
Thursdays are a full 12-hour day involving prepping overnight deliveries, helping distribute hampers, and volunteer scheduling. Then there is clean up and tear down at the end of the day.
Barkic points out that James also supports the food bank in other ways.
This past summer the organization found itself in desperate need of donations. James organized a fundraising car wash and bake sale, recruiting friends and other food bank volunteers to help out. The venture raised more than $2,800.
At the church he shovels snow, gardens, and helps out with fundraising.
When he’s not working at the food bank, James is giving back in other ways. He raises money for the Canadian Cancer Society in its Relay for Life, and sells daffodils during the April ‘Daffodil Month’ campaign. He has walked for Multiple Sclerosis, is involved with MissionFest (an annual conference featuring missionaries, speakers and seminars), and volunteers with Pride and the LGBTQ community.
As James modestly puts it, “I try to stay out of trouble.”
James received his award on Sunday, Feb. 22, during the Birchcliff Bluffs 10:30 a.m. morning service.