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Saluting Our Essential Workers

The Essential Workers of Open Table – Showing up every day!

Next week (starting April 19th), Open Table will be closed. After a year of working full throttle, our staff is taking the week off for well-deserved rest and relaxation. Before they leave, I want to take this opportunity to highlight their incredible dedication. Radical changes have happened almost weekly since the onset of the pandemic. Just when we thought we’d found a steady state, we would encounter another need to change in order to deliver food safely and respectfully. Through it all, our staff regrouped, strategized, and kept rising to the challenges. Here are a few of the major contributions each person brought to the “Table.”

Operations/Facilities

Rob Slattery: Operations and Facilities Manager,8/19-present

  • Coolest of cool under all forms of pressure, keeps the team laughing with Mr. and Ms. Salty’s photos.
  • Makes sure we always have enough food, over 600,000 lbs., even during the national break in the food supply chain!
  • Keeps the facility ready to go at all times, no matter the weather (18” of snow!).
  • Moved Open Table into our new office space during the busiest time of year while decommissioning Everett Street pantry.
  • Totally reconfigured the interior pantry space to support online ordering.  
  • Currently oversees the management of contractors for kitchen expansion. 
  • Oversaw drainage and outside improvements of the facility. 
  • Manages a crew of interns, volunteers, and staff to support all of the above while responding to most questions with “sure, we can do that.”

Stephanie Shenton: Kitchen Manager, 10/18-present

  • Led the “Thursday Distribution Team” at the onset of the pandemic.  
  • Leads the kitchen in the production of over 500+ prepared meals a week. 
  • Contributes in a major way to the Mobile Meals Expansion team, strategizing to meet a goal of 1000 meals a week while utilizing an all-volunteer team of cooks.  
  • Has an amazing gift for keeping everyone’s morale boosted while juggling many, many plates in the air!  
  • Performs as a kitchen magician. No food is too challenging to figure out how to work it into a prepared meal (corn dog casserole anyone?).

Barbara Blankenship: Kitchen Manager, 2/19-10/20

  • Converted the community dinner program by pivoting all volunteers and resources from preparing 100 weekly in-house meals to 500 prepared deliverables.
  • Reconfigured OT volunteers into cooking pods and welcomed newly available commercial cooks waylaid by Covid to cook safely in our confined spaces. 
  • Received wholesale and institutional quantities of surplus food from local schools and restaurants (destined otherwise for the landfill) and turned it into beautiful, healthy meals for families in need. 

Jeff Geraghty: Assistant Pantry Manager and Truck Driver, 7/18-present

  • Moves small houses and heavy, cob-web covered furniture.
  • Receives, transports, and delivers literally thousands of pounds of food multiple times every day! 
  • Drives to South Boston in all kinds of weather. 
  • Executes weekly the entire transportation, set-up, and tear down of our mobile pantries.  
  • Makes sure our facility is secured every night, which includes the back-shack, 2 vehicles, and 2 buildings (6 doors!).
  • Admired by all who work with him: “love that guy, he’s got such a positive attitude.”

Scarlett Cheung: Commonwealth Service Corps Operations Assistant, 8/20-7/21

  • Sourced and prepared the distribution of all foods for mobile programs. 
  • Created the concept of “Glad Bags” for the Thanksgiving drive to ensure all clients received amazing “extras” during the challenging holiday time.  
  • Instrumental in developing the “kits” for Healthy Helpings, medically tailored meals and groceries for seniors. 
  • Trained volunteers on Pick-and-Pack teams to prepare food for Mobile Programs and Fresh Air Programs. 
  • Scored an ongoing source of feminine products thru Dignity Matters and has achieved the managerial level of ServSafe.
  • Has an incredible “Spidey sense” for knowing when we are about to run out of items and how to substitute seamlessly!  

Program Management

Jill Tsakiris: Acting ED, 3/20-5/20 & Program Manager, 8/20-present

  • Was only 12 days on the job when a global pandemic was declared. Rallied the troops and built incredible teams to keep the organization going so that we never had to stop, even for one day, delivering food with the highest COVID safety measures in place. This resulted in no known COVID-19 cases during the time she led the organization.
  • Reinvented Open Table’s operations – 3 different times! 
  • Created and launched Open Table’s online ordering system, including home deliveries.
  • Trained mobile pantry teams and in-home grocery delivery teams
  • Designed and implemented the Healthy Helpings program.  
  • Dedicated to the ideal of treating all people with respect.  
  • Never stops until a program is successfully running smoothly working tirelessly in all kinds of weather and with all kinds of equipment – making sure that Open Table is delivering the highest quality service to those in need.

Samantha Hohl: Program Manager, 7/19-7/20

  • Successfully launched our first mobile pantry in partnership with the Hudson Health Department.
  • Managed a radically changed distribution model and coordinated the transition of distribution in our pantry-choice market to packed-bag model.
  • Demonstrated incredible kindness to our clients and our volunteers through her gentle, calm presence which was always appreciated in times of stress.

Nick Owens:  Program Intern, 9/20-3/21

  • Co-designed a home-grocery delivery model and implemented it with all volunteers
  • Co-developed and implemented an online ordering system to bring back more “client preferences” when receiving food from Open Table. 
  • Leaves behind excellent customer service protocols and training materials.
  • Nick is known to all for his positive and calm approach to challenging technical problems and the ability to explain to anyone how to execute them.

Terra Buck:  Commonwealth Service Corps Program Assistant, 8/20-2/21

  • Worked full-time at Open Table while pursuing a full-time graduate program in counseling.
  • Helped launch the Concord-Carlisle mobile pantry; clients found Terra to be outgoing and committed to offering excellent service. 

Communications/Development/Administration/Volunteer

Christine Evans: Marketing & Development Manager, 12/18-Present

  • Functions as the Wizard of Open Table, the woman behind the screen (or is it the curtain?) who has made all systems work together to support our communications, fundraising, and data needs—normally the job of 3 people. Christine does this as a part-time employee, volunteering the additional 40+ hours it sometimes takes to make Open Table function.
  • Made sure EVERYONE was receiving excellent communication during the height of the pandemic so that we felt connected and productive in delivering our mission.
  • Served as the backbone of this year’s unprecedented and successful fundraising as well as all years leading up to it!
  • Provides the creative genius behind the visuals at Open Table – our logos, photos, images, layouts!
  • Makes Open Table jewelry, hats, scarecrows, logos, signage, and (soon) bicycle riders!

Heather Hernandez: Volunteer and Business Manager, 3/19-12/20 

  • Kept OT flush with volunteers despite crazy times, coining the concept of “family pods” and making sure that the COVID safety protocols were in place for volunteers.
  • Caused staff to say: “Never had to worry once that we wouldn’t have enough volunteers during the pandemic.”  
  • Coordinated the Advisory Team of long-time volunteers who could no longer volunteer in-person; helped to brainstorm ideas for the new operating model.
  • Provided the creative genius for solving staffing challenges through volunteer talent.
  • Used her social work experience to lead staff in the trauma training workshop.
  • Known as the “Finder” whom everyone goes to when looking for something they need!

Gretchen Findlay:  Volunteer Manager, 3/21-present

  • Launching a new volunteer management program (CERVIS). 
  • Manages and endeavors to engage over 120 teenage volunteers. 
  • Keeps all shifts fully staffed.
  • Tackles tough volunteer challenges with incredible positivity.

Aiko Pinkoski: Business Administrator, 12/20-present

  • Put her former professional software experience to use leading our volunteer management and CRM selection processes.
  • Finds ways to cut costs and make the administrative work of Open Table function as efficiently as possible.
  • Troubleshoots all technical issues while systems are operating.
  • Serves as co-captain of our 2021 Ride For Food team.

Eliza Coffin: Business Administrator, 7/20-1/21

  • Organized and Managed two Food Security Task Forces
  • Producer-in-Chief of our Town Hall and Annual Meeting
  • Created and implemented the Holiday Gift Drive, resulting in over 600 bags of gifts to make the best possible holiday despite this year’s challenges.
  • Designed the online registration form for home deliveries as well as client surveys, often translating materials in multiple languages.
  • Organized Open Table’s files and trained staff and many volunteers on the use of GSuite.
  • Handled over 500 deposits during the height of the annual appeal. 

Stephanie Chrobak: Development/Program Administrator, 3/20-7/20

  • Lent oversight for the Commonwealth Service Corps application and selection process, resulting in Open Table receiving 2 full-time service members for the year.
  • Worked diligently with the staff to make sure we successfully had in place an ironclad program structure for our first and subsequent mobile pantry programs. 
  • Led the OT grant-writing committee to raise over $165,000 for the year, including the recent $108,000 State Food Infrastructure Grant.

Please join me in saluting these amazing staff members. Their contributions during this pandemic year will go down in history as the most dedicated and selfless team, certainly one that I feel privileged to work beside.

Jeanine

Jeanine Calabria
Executive Director, Open Table