DJ may not say much, but the joy he experiences volunteering at the Durham Donation Station is evident.
“From the first time he came to the farmers market, DJ has enjoyed every minute of the Donation Station,” says Veronica Judd. “He knows each vendor by name. He has mastered the smile and the handshake when a market customer makes a donation. He loves it here!”
Veronica is the direct care staff person for DJ Neblett, a young man with autism. Several years ago, she approached Reality Ministries, a community for adults with and without disabilities, to inquire about regular volunteer opportunities that might be available for DJ.
Reality Ministries had long been a recipient of food donations from the Durham Farmers Market Donation Station. It just so happened that the Donation Station needed a volunteer to encourage Wednesday market shoppers to participate.
“It was the perfect opportunity for DJ,” says Veronica. “The socialization, the opportunity to do very simple tasks but on a consistent basis, was so very important. He needs a routine.
Learning the ropes
The Donation Station takes place every week, and DJ has learned his role as a volunteer. He encourages shoppers to make a donation, and he uses that money to buy produce from farmers – food that for years has been donated to Reality Ministries.
Unless there is a sickness or a vacation, he never misses a Wednesday. Of course, there are perks to the job: at 4:00 p.m. each week, DJ loves to visit the cheese vendor, Austin Genke of Boxcarr Handmade Cheese. “It is his favorite thing to do. It is his treat,” says Veronica.
DJ and Veronica have staffed the Durham Farmers Market Donation Station for the past four years. They have been some of Farmer Foodshare’s most faithful volunteers and a joy to the market staff. “DJ and Veronica light up the Wednesday Market!” says Mary Yost, manager of the Downtown Durham Farmers Market.
“Our customers and vendors look forward to spending time with the dynamic duo every week. DJ knows so many folks by name, and it's always the highlight of our week to chat with him. And Veronica brings so much passion and energy to everything she does. We are so fortunate to work with such a caring and loving team.”
Farmer Foodshare is fortunate as well. It is always a gift to find volunteers who deeply resonate with our mission of supporting local farmers while also making fresh food available to all. For Veronica, the mission of Farmer Foodshare is personal.
“It is so impressive... the opportunity for persons in our community who would otherwise never have access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables, to now have it,” says Veronica. “And the variety is simply awesome! When we encourage customers to give, it brings a smile to my face, and I feel like I am a part of the giving. That is important to me.”