Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra members joined forces with members of the Chicago Lyric Opera Chorus and Stage Managers on March 20 to volunteer at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Although we work together on a daily basis to create intricately intertwined operatic productions at Lyric, many of us had never met before. Orchestra members work in the pit, below the ground, and chorus and stage managers work on the stage above. It was a joy to shake hands and get to know each other. Orchestra members put on their Lyric Opera Orchestra t-shirts and chorus and stage managers put on their American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) t-shirts and we sat down for our orientation.
Most of us don’t understand what it means to go hungry. We were told that in Cook County, one in every six people is food insecure, a surprising figure. GCFD provides fresh produce and staples such as pasta, beans, lentils and rice that they distribute to soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and mobile units. They train unemployed adults for careers in food service. They partner with schools to make sure children are getting nutritious food and also work with low income veterans and seniors. It is a huge operation, which depends on volunteers to repack and sort food. The food itself comes from many sources including retail and wholesale food companies, food drives, Feeding America, and strategic purchase.
We shared an afternoon repack session with two other groups of volunteers. Our task was to shovel out bulk pallets of gluten-free pasta into smaller boxes, weigh, bag, seal and label three pound portions and repack them into boxes to be distributed at GCFD centers across the city. We donned hair and beard nets, put on aprons and gloves and worked together in a beehive of activity until two huge pallets (over one thousand lbs. apiece) were processed, then moved on to sort and bag sweet potatoes (no soft spots or mold.) After an afternoon of hard work we were gratified to learn that our repack session provided food for 11,846 meals. Thank you to all involved and especially to orchestra members Heather Wittels and Amy Hess and chorus member Pamela Williams for helping to coordinate our first joint volunteer venture.
Teamwork is something that orchestra, stage managers, and chorus members understand!