Sandy Weiss prepares sets of food in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry for our hungry neighbors in Central Florida.

“I think it’s a privilege to work in the Pantry.” Sandy Weiss has volunteered with JFS Orlando since 2018, first as a RAISE coach and now as a full-fledged Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry volunteer. “I helped somebody with the RAISE (Recognizing Abilities & Inclusion of Special Employees) program here and I got to know the job description. So it just evolved.” Sandy has always had a big heart and a love for helping others.

Before moving to Orlando from NYC 48 years ago, Sandy started her career in teaching. “I taught elementary school—4th grade mostly. I was a teacher for 28 years!” While teaching, Sandy and her husband raised their two sons in Maitland (“We’ve lived in our same house for 43 years!”), and their family has now grown to include five grandchildren, some living in the area and some in Charlotte. Now retired, Sandy enjoys volunteering with RAISE and with JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

“When I say I volunteer at the Pantry, people’s eyes light up. It just seems magical because it’s something that everybody is for—it’s not this thing or that thing, what people believe or not—we’re feeding and helping the world. And people are hungry!” Sandy notes how the people who come to the Pantry are always so grateful and almost a little embarrassed; they’ve just fallen on hard times. “These are people who are reasonable and they are reaching out. Working here grounds me and it helps me understand more of what’s behind the four walls of our lives. It just shows you that there is another world—you know about it, but when you actually see it, you just become so grateful.”

There have been many moments from working in the Pantry that have left an impression on Sandy, but one particular one stands out the most: “One gentleman came, 20 or 22-years old. That day we had a lot of produce and it was all over-flowing. I opened up the door and his eyes widened. He said, ‘Wow…I haven’t eaten in three days.’ Luckily we had a few bars to hand him. And at that time also, he had no way to get his food home. I said ‘How did you even find us?’ He said ‘I guess when you’re hungry.’ He had gone on the computer and he found us. He said ‘I promise I’m a really good person and I don’t do this kind of thing normally. I’m waiting and I had an interview with Taco Bell.’ All he wanted was a job at Taco Bell….”

Sandy had always wanted to volunteer at the Pantry and, now that she does, she wishes more people would support it too! “I just think people really don’t know. They know it’s a pantry and they say ‘Oh, that’s wonderful’, but they really don’t know. It’s a very happy and fulfilling place. It fills your heart with positivity in a world that is full of so much negativity. Volunteering at the Pantry is something that you can do that’s positive. It makes you happy and you’re putting a smile on someone’s face.”

You put a smile on our faces, Sandy. You are such a sweetheart and you provide such a warm, bright presence to everyone that come up to the Pantry door. We appreciate all that you do for the people we serve and we love having you on the JFS Volunteer Team!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Several roles are currently available, including helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.