Fifteen years ago, Darren Smith found himself between jobs, struggling to provide for his growing family.
To help put food on the table, Darren sought help from the Sharing Our Sources food pantry in Bellefontaine Neighbors, a St. Louis Area Foodbank partner agency.
At the time, the Share Our Sources pantry was run by elderly volunteers who struggled to keep up with the demands of running the agency.
Darren offered to help at the pantry, and quickly became their most valuable volunteer.
I started volunteering and then the pastor gave me a job working at the church and with the food pantry,” Darren says. “Next thing you know I was running it.”
Darren’s work at the pantry brought him to the Foodbank, where he picked up food donations for families in need. Back then, the Foodbank was located at 5959 St. Louis Avenue, in a small warehouse.
I used to pick up food and take it back to our site and give it out to clients,” Darren says. “I walked in the Foodbank one day, looked around and thought, ‘I want to work here.’”
Five years later, Darren was hired as a warehouse associate at the Foodbank. One of his earliest jobs was working hands on with our partner agencies, monitoring the food they picked up in the shopping area.
Over the last 12 years, Darren has served in many roles at the Foodbank, from donated inventory control coordinator to front desk coordinator. Agency volunteers he has worked with over the years are quick to comment on his friendly demeanor and knowledge about hunger relief.
In the last decade, Darren has seen countless changes in the Foodbank. The biggest perhaps, was the move to our current facility in Bridgeton.
“It has grown so large, compared to where it was. We’re feeding more people. I’m seeing more food go out the door,” Darren says. “I’m seeing more and more new clients coming in, so it has to be working.”
Nowadays, Darren is the facilities manager at the Foodbank. He is responsible for the entire 100,000 square foot building and the surrounding grounds.
His work keeps him involved in all the day-to-day operations at the Foodbank.
“The hardest part of my job is staying in my boundaries. I always want to be involved in every area of the organization,” Darren says.
One thing is certain, Darren and his staff make it possible for everyone here at the Foodbank to work harder to provide more food to families in need.
It’s a role he is proud of, and rightly so.
“Because I ran a food pantry, I’ve actually seen the people that we serve,” Darren says. “So when I see all this food going out the door I know that there are hungry people being served.”
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank