The Interconnectedness of Giving

“We as a society get help along the way from many different people, and you don’t always know who those people are. At some point in your life, you need to give back.”

Participants of PPL programs are not only resilient in their own lives, but desire to make an impact in their community and support those around them. Anyone has the opportunity to invest in society through service. PPL participants are doing just that as they invest their time and energy into supporting a wide variety of PPL programs such as food rescue, child enrichment, open computer labs, and youth development, among others.

PPL’s Panera Packing Pro

Jeffroy Holmes, a resident of PPL supportive housing, has a motivation that seems simple at surface level: he wants to use his talents in a way that gives back to his community. When there is a need, he meets it and does so with a smile that brightens the day of everyone who sees him.

But that’s not the whole story. Jeff sees volunteering in his community as his personal contribution to the circle of giving in society, feeding back into the loop of people that supported his own personal journey.

Growing up in Chicago, Jeff was the oldest of six children and bore the responsibility of helping his single mother raise his five younger siblings. Although Jeff was opposed to joining the street gangs, he was initiated at the age of 16 and saw it as a way to fulfill his duty to protect his siblings, allowing them to graduate high school without interference. Moving to Minnesota was a big milestone for Jeff, allowing him to pave a new life away from the street gangs. Jeff has since overcome many other challenges including four triple bypass surgeries, multiple leg surgeries, and addiction. He has been a committed member of Alcoholics Anonymous since 1995, through the support of which Jeff realized a fundamental truth about life and our connectedness to one another. “It’s a blessing to just be able to get up and do something – do it with my heart.” As someone who’s raised three grandchildren and is still actively supporting two of them, Jeff strongly identifies as a family man. “I don’t party. I don’t drink. I don’t whatever. I’m home, so when someone needs me, I’m there.” This has certainly also been true for his involvement as PPL’s Panera Packing Pro volunteer, which staff have gratefully taken note of.

Picking up and sorting bread donations is a longstanding tradition for PPL, but it has never run as smoothly as it does now that Jeff is on call. This winter, the donations were threatened by a change in schedule which required bread to be picked up late in the evening. Staff were doubtful they would find a volunteer who would be flexible enough to accommodate this change, but Jeff rose to the challenge, ensuring the nutritious donation continued to be available to PPL residents. Even while experiencing health and family issues, Jeff drives each week to pick up bread late in the evening and returns in the morning to the office to sort, bag, and deliver it.

When asked what motivates him to volunteer with PPL, Jeff replied, “PPL has done a lot of wonderful things for me, my kids, and my grandkids. This is my way of giving back.” Jeff overflows with appreciation for those that have supported him throughout his life, in particular for his mother, the AA community, and PPL. He is grateful for all that he has received, but he still believes that it is better to give than to receive. Jeff does not grudgingly show up weekly to help with bread; Jeff shows up each week with his shining smile because he knows that he benefits from having many supporters in his life and he strives to be a part of the cycle that gives back.

Jeff continues in his ongoing volunteer position delivering PPL’s Panera donations, is an inspirational speaker for his AA community, mentors youth, and encourages younger generations. “You can’t beat the giver at giving. Just do what you can: your time, your money, words of encouragement. It’s amazing what a few words can do to help someone!”

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