Finding Love on the Sorting Line

Published on February 13, 2015

When Sean Dowd was swept out to sea in a riptide along the Hawaiian coast in May 1989, he spent the intermittent hours thinking about the things he would do in his life if he made it back to shore. During this time, Sean made a commitment to give back through social action, unknowing that this pledge would lead him to start a lifetime of volunteering, and would facilitate his introduction to the woman who would later become his wife.

Not long after Sean returned to Boston, he began searching for volunteer opportunities and found Boston Cares. Since 1992, Boston Cares, a non-profit organization that creates and facilitates volunteer service projects each month, has been sending The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) volunteers. Over the last 23 years this valued and long-term partner organization has sent GBFB thousands of volunteers and has saved us millions of dollars in labor costs. In 2014 alone, they contributed over 1339 hours which saved us about $20,000. Meanwhile, a like-minded young professional working in Boston, Cathy Heer, was also looking for a way to support her community and discovered Boston Cares.

On March 9, 1996 Cathy and Sean independently braved a snow storm to volunteer at GBFB. Through the four-hour shift of inspecting and sorting donated food, marked by conversation and friendly banter, Cathy and Sean realized a mutual connection. They decided to have brunch together, where they explored shared ideologies and their interest in politics.

When Cathy offered Sean a ride to the MBTA, he balked upon realizing she had removed snow from only a small port-hole to see the road ahead. Somewhere between discussing dented cans, exchanging opinions, and Sean’s gentlemanly act of clearing Cathy’s car of snow, love was born.

Sean and Cathy were married two years later, and have honored their initial encounter by returning to volunteer at GBFB with their children. As the largest hunger-relief organization in New England, GBFB relies heavily on our amazing community of over 26,000 volunteers who come into our warehouse each year. This dedicated support saves us more than $1,000,000 and allows us to maximize the impact we have on our community through large-scale food distribution.

While we cannot guarantee a love connection for every GBFB volunteer, the positive effect GBFB volunteers have on the community is immeasurable. Learn more about how you can join this incredible community and help end hunger here in Eastern Massachusetts.

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