Hunger For Helping Others- Brian Wolters, Sunmark Business Loan Officer
Brian Wolters has a hunger for helping others, and he feeds it by helping others feed themselves.
Brian is originally from Long Island and moved to the Capital Region after graduating from Siena College in 2000. He has spent his entire 19-year career in commercial banking. The past nine of those years have been here at Sunmark, where he uses his experience as a Business Loan Officer to help clients find the best solutions to help them succeed and grow.
But what Brian does outside of his regular work day also gives him deep satisfaction in helping his Capital Region neighbors. Since January of 2014 he has volunteered his time and labor to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. Founded in 1982, the Food Bank supplies aid to 1,000 different member agencies over a 23-county area that stretches from Rockland County in the south all the way to the Canadian border. The non-profit works with homeless and domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries and others to alleviate hunger and prevent food waste.
Brian says it was an easy decision to make to get involved in community service, especially with the Food Bank.
“I’m always looking for ways to help out and I believe strongly that people should give back. I’ve been very fortunate in my life and career and it’s a cause I feel passionate about.”
He was impressed by the Food Bank as a well-run organization that’s been around for a long time that helps a tremendous amount of people in our community. They also make it easy to give, he added.
“People can give to them in a lot of ways and for myself it was donating my time. Whether you’re working at their warehouse or on their farm, they make it easy for people to volunteer. In my opinion, they do this type of work the best as far as providing food and other resources to people in our area that need it the most.”
That ratio translates into over 38 million pounds of food and other necessities supplied to those who need it every year. He goes on to explain how the Food Bank’s director, Mark Quandt, and his staff leverage their relationships with a network of community supporters to help turn that one dollar into four meals. Almost all the food suppliers and supermarkets in the region contribute leftover food, and many local groups and companies give matching donations of food, money, and time.
One of those companies is Sunmark, where Brian is grateful for all the support he has received.
“Sunmark and their charitable foundation have been incredible with their continued sponsorships over the years. They really take the “people helping people” mantra to heart. They’ve organized food drives, held group volunteer nights in the warehouse, and sponsored various events over the years. Whether its money, time or resources, Sunmark always comes through.”
Brian spent his first three years volunteering one night per week after work at the Food Bank’s warehouse on Albany Shaker Road. One week that might mean sorting frozen food items and the next week packing home goods like bedding, basic home necessities or personal hygiene items.
The experience has made him familiar with the full range of assistance that many people need that the Food Bank supplies.
“If somebody can’t afford to buy food,” he says, “they obviously can’t afford to buy items like soap, toothpaste, and feminine hygiene products.”
In early 2017 he and his wife were expecting their first child, and he realized he would be needed at home. So he asked himself how else he could give. The answer was to join the Food Bank’s board of directors, and today he continues to serve on the board, and on three different committees that help with specific issues and events.
Brian and his wife, Elizabeth, both support the Food Bank through their work. She also has volunteered for the Food Bank, and works for the New York Farm Bureau, whose members support the Food Bank with 1.7 million pounds of produce, eggs, and dairy products donated annually.
They are also teaching their daughter, Claire, the same value of giving back to the community. This past March she went with them around their neighborhood dropping off food donation bags, then picking them up again the following week. She also helped one afternoon with gleaning apples from a local farm.
Brian says he will keep up his work for the Food Bank as long as he’s able.
“You see the same people over and over again and you make a lot of friendships over there. It’s definitely a rewarding experience. Just giving an hour or two of your time can really make a difference in someone’s life.”
How You Can Help Brian and the Food Bank
Hunger Action Challenge – Now Through October 2: This annual event is going on now! It’s a competition for businesses, organizations, and individuals to collect all types of donations to help those in need. Awards will be given to the top collecting teams in 3 categories: personal hygiene items, funds, and non-perishable food donations. You can help Sunmark win the Hunger Action Challenge here.