Our Stories

Celebrating PEF Volunteers: National Volunteer Week 2021

By Nancy Carol Inguanzo, PEF Community Engagement & Volunteer Manager

Last week the Los Angeles Times published an article about how hugs are making a comeback post-vaccinations. In the piece, Angelenos shared stories of their first post-vaccination hug. Me? I hugged a volunteer.

I’ve worked in-person with volunteers throughout the lockdown. We’ve shared a lot of laughs and a lot of sweat without seeing each other’s faces. Susan Baranich started volunteering with Pasadena Educational Foundation by passing out curbside meals at Muir High School almost from the moment the world shut down. I’ve worked with her countless times; she was our January 2021 Volunteer of the Month. My favorite masks are the ones Susan handmade and gave to me. But hugs? Out of the question.

I walked up to Susan where she was, yet again. bagging meals at Muir. Every volunteer there was going about their tasks full of duty. Behind them, the pick-up line snaked to the back edge of the parking lot.

“Hi Susan! How are you?”

“I’m great!” Susan beamed. “How are you? It’s so good to see you! Can I give you a hug?”

I was a bit taken aback. Not because I didn’t want a hug, but because it hadn’t occurred to me. We’ve both been fully vaccinated. We were wearing masks. We were outside.

“Of course!”

Here’s a person I have gotten to know during this whole COVID mess and we hadn’t even shared an elbow bump. Now, a hug. All day my mind kept going back to it. Finally I realized why.

This was the moment when I truly felt… not reasoned, the end was in sight.

Fitting that feeling should come from a PEF volunteer… and friend.

Our volunteers have championed our community over the last year in every possible way. Pasadena Educational Foundation volunteers put in 4,500 hours of service in support of public education, children, and their families since March 2020. They’ve put themselves on the line to care for others… armed with good will and protected by fabric. They met the moment.

I’ve been witness to the extraordinary service of volunteers throughout this pandemic. They shape communities and lift spirits. And when they can, they’ll throw in a warm hug, too.

Here’s to celebrating PEF Volunteers for National Volunteer Week 2021. You make our community stronger!