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Celebration of Service

Process with a side of spreadsheet, please

IBM Employee helps document procedures at Greenwood Lake Food Pantry

After 20 years, the president of the Greenwood Lake Food Pantry in Greenwood Lake, New York, US was retiring. The not-for-profit organization had a board in place with officers, but management of the pantry – including relationships with suppliers, administrative tasks, record keeping, monthly reporting to government agencies and more – was performed mainly by the president.

The president planned to meet with each of the board members to pass off her knowledge and make sure there was a succession plan. “I was going to assume the responsibilities for the monthly reporting,” says IBM employee Linda Tresca, who has volunteered at the Pantry for the past three years. “The pantry receives funding from federal, state, and local agencies and we report to them on a monthly basis. The president and I were meeting and she was explaining the reporting to me, and I said, Wait a minute! Where is this information documented?”

It wasn’t. Not a single process for any job at the Food Pantry.

Tresca explained her role at IBM where she specializes in courseware production and process development for a software group within the company. “Process,” “documentation” and “management” aren’t boring words to her. “My life revolves around taking things apart and putting them back together. So documenting the roles, responsibilities, and process at the food pantry was a natural fit for me,” she says.

She started taking notes on the tasks she was going to take over and then continued meeting with the Pantry president and the other Pantry volunteers until she had documented duties and responsibilities for each of the organization’s 6 officers and 15 of its crucial volunteers who work on-site. “It took about 16 hours and 5 drafts to capture all the information and make it usable.”

Because of the current economic client, the Food Pantry has seen a huge surge in the number of people coming in for help. With nearly 20% of New York State families living in or near poverty, it is easy to understand how so many people are just one step away from hunger. Currently, the pantry serves about 400 people per month. “By providing the documentation, we’ve created an overall infrastructure for the organization. Now, we have a reference so that when someone says, How do we do that? we know what to do,” Tresca says

“In addition to the weekly food distribution, we have other programs,” Tresca continues. “We have a holiday gift basket program, local people make Christmas stockings and provide them to our clients, and we have donations from fund-raisers. All of these things need to be coordinated. That’s what the documentation does – It provides the infrastructure for everything we do and we are able to grow.”

Tresca began volunteering at the food pantry because, as she puts it, “I’m Italian. I love food. I want everyone to have access to food. It’s rewarding to be able to help others.”

She continues, “I apply the skills I’ve learned at IBM to everyday life all the time. From problem solving techniques that I can use with my teenage son – where I have a flow chart of problem solutions in my head – to the technical writing and documentation skills that I used at the Food Pantry. I like that I can use my abilities and extend them outward to help my community.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.