1. How do you measure the success of the organization and what are your future plans for growth?
Measuring success is a strange thing to consider. Money and profit automatically come to mind, in which case Full Bellies is a total and utter flop. Although it’s an incorporated company, there is no profit to be made. However, if measuring the success of Full Bellies is based on interactions, joy, contentedness, full fridges, fruit in lunch boxes, engagement in the community, the learned art of generosity, then Full Bellies is an overwhelming success. I don’t have any particular future plans for Full Bellies. It moves and morphs all by itself with the influence of volunteers and customers with great ideas. I won’t say what we will become because I have no clue. If the people want to move this machine forward, I will make it happen. Somehow.
2. How has the community supported your efforts and how can you get involved?
Full Bellies is 100% community led. See a need fill a need is often how Full Bellies ends up being able to survive. I find myself floundering in an overwhelming amount of work and debt. When customers see that the financial struggle is real, they make donations to alleviate a bit of that burden. When volunteers witness the overloaded workload, they step in and support me and Full Bellies by filling in the gaps wherever their strengths are. It’s incredible that the things I hate to do are in fact things that other people love to do and vice versa. For example, I dislike cleaning and organizing very much yet there’s a pile of volunteers who love this task and keep the store moving smoothly. Some volunteers love to interact with the customers, and some prefer to be in a quiet space and so they find their place within Full Bellies, but it also fulfills a part of their life that often is missing. Who has time to start a massive machine, like full bellies? And so, they join a pre-made community, a safe place to offer skills, and know they are contributing to a great movement. Anyone is welcome to help out. Just get in touch with me and we’ll see how and where you’ll fit in.
3. Can you share a memorable moment or story from your experience running full bellies?
We have a Neighbour in town where the store is. He’s got mental challenges that often frighten or bother people simply because they don’t know him and at first glance he is a bit odd. But he’s lonely. He comes to the store to seek company and to donate canned goods he doesn’t like. And recently has started volunteering on truck unloading days and doing any other task we will give him. He’s been given value and love. And if I can’t do anything else but can achieve this, helping people to feel loved, then everything is worth it.
4. How do you balance the demands of running Full Bellies with your personal life and responsibilities?
It’s very difficult. It’s been a rough year on my family. I’m not home much. My house is always a mess. My mental health is low. I rarely take a day off. And I have 8 children. But I have hope. I don’t know what the future looks like but I’m taking some of my time back with my family. There’s no sense in helping hundreds of others survive when mine is just barely surviving. But my children are full of passion and compassion like me. So, they understand. I just don’t want to miss them as much as I do.
5. What advice would you give to others looking to start a similar organization in their own communities?
It takes a special person to lead a movement like Full Bellies. We make difficult decisions, deal with financial stress, and handle complaints while keeping the organization running smoothly and picking up the slack when a volunteer leaves unexpectedly. It’s and incredible weight to carry. Despite the challenges, we make it possible for others to benefit from the community. Those who share this passion may be crazy enough to start their own movement. I am waiting for someone to take the lead in Cornwall, but believe it must happen naturally for success.