Why I Take Action: Robin Shaffert

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Robin Shaffert is a supporter of the food bank, with a particular passion for assisting food insecure seniors in our region. For Hunger Action Month we asked her to share, in her own words, what inspires her to take action.

As a government shutdown loomed a few years ago, I tried to figure out what I could do to make a difference. I knew the low wage government employees and contractors would be most quickly and most profoundly impacted by not receiving a pay check while the politics played out.

It dawned on me that one thing that I could do was make a contribution to the Capital Area Food Bank to help meet the increased demand CAFB was sure to see in the coming weeks. That’s when my husband and I went from being casual supporters of CAFB who contributed canned goods and wrote an occasional check, to becoming committed, regular donors.

That commitment deepened after my mother died, when we decided that we would focus our support to the food bank on senior nutrition in her memory. She and my father had first moved to the Washington metro region over half a century before, and from the time she arrived, she had worked to make life better for older residents in the area who were struggling.

Robin’s mother and father

During my parents’ first stint in the area in 1955, while my father finished basic training at Ft. Belvoir, my mother got a job working with low income seniors at the Barney Neighborhood House. After a few interceding years moving around the east coast, my parents returned to the DC area in 1966 with my older sister and me in tow, and my mother earned her master’s degree in social work and took a job with a new social service agency, the Jewish Council for the Aging.

The agency’s director, Ruth Breslow, had accepted a federal government grant to provide jobs to low income seniors in Montgomery County. A number of more established agencies had turned down the grant, saying there weren’t enough low income seniors in Montgomery County. Ruth and my mother knew better. My mother started that program and oversaw it for almost two decades while she worked at JCA. By the time she left the agency in 1993 as the assistant executive director, she oversaw senior nutrition and housing programs, as well as the employment programs.

It is an honor for my husband, my sons, and me to be able to continue my mother’s work. I had the opportunity this summer to join the staff of the food bank for the distribution of groceries to seniors in Montgomery County. I saw that morning the same thing that my mother saw when she launched the senior aide program decades before: that amidst all the affluence in Montgomery County and throughout the DC area, there are seniors who need assistance. Seniors of all races and ethnicities. People in good health and people living with disabilities. Immigrants, and people born in the US. These seniors have raised their children and cared for their parents, worked hard and built our community. And today, some of them need our support to make sure they can eat good, nutritious food.

The Capital Area Food Bank’s senior nutrition programs make an enormous difference in the lives of many seniors, and my family feels fortunate to be able to do our part to sustain these vital programs.

Robin walking with her mother and son