Soroush Besharat knows the ins and outs of the Food Pantry of Waukesha County after spending the past six months volunteering for the non-profit organization.
Besharat, 15, needed volunteer hours as a student at Pewaukee High School. The food pantry became the perfect fit for the young man, and the organization's staff couldn't be happier.
"Soroush, in particular, has really become a staff favorite," said Karen Tredwell, executive director of the food pantry and mother of one of Besharat's soccer teammate. "Everybody knows his name. Everybody looks forward to having him on site. He has been a really nice addition to our volunteer core. We have just in general been really lucky with really dedicated volunteers."
Besharat was brought into the organization for a specific data entry task. Besharat soon advanced into a leadership role as the food pantry switches from a paper-based filing system to a computerized system.
Additionally, while The food pantry wants its volunteers to be at least 16 years old, Besharat soon proved himself responsible enough to work with the clients.
Besharat was one of several students who were volunteering at the food pantry at the start of their holiday break from school. Tredwell said the students have many good ideas, especially when it comes to the computerized system.
"One of the things I really like about student volunteers, in general, is in many instances they don't have a lot of pre-conceived notions of what a food pantry is or should be like," Tredwell said. "Experience is great, too. I don't every want to say one is better than the another, but there does seem to be a whole different atmosphere when you have students here that have not volunteered a lot before and don't really know what to expect."
Besharat said he became connected to the food pantry when his mother dropped off donated food at the organization. It didn't take him long to realize he liked helping at the pantry, but he was surprised by the amount of people who receive services from the food pantry.
"I didn't know there were that many people just in Waukesha," Besharat said.
Besharat isn't the only student volunteer who became connected to the Food Pantry of Waukesha County through family. Clarissa Wood, 20, a freshman at Milwaukee Area Technical College, started volunteering five years ago with her aunt, Deanna Wood.
Clarissa said she does whatever she can to help the food pantry. Her biggest surprise in the past five years of volunteering was the number of people that need help in the community.
"I didn't realize there was that much of a need," she said.
Clarissa offered advice to other young people looking to volunteer at any community organization.
"Just do it," she said. "It is just fun, and it makes you feel good helping others. It is an experience I will never forget. It beats sitting around playing video games."