It’s 7 a.m. and Gloria Maxx has already lost count of how many tomatoes and cucumbers she’s sliced. She’s on her last case now, and once the vegetables are prepped, she will join other volunteers in assembling and packing hundreds of sandwiches. These will then go into lunch bags for children in 22 summer camps across the city as part of Second Harvest’s annual Feeding Our Future program. Volunteers for morning shifts are the hardest to fill, but Gloria never misses hers. “Second Harvest embodies goodness and humanity for me,” she says.
Over the past year, Gloria has become a familiar face among Second Harvest’s supporters. She’s helped out at Toronto Taste (now The Rescue Party) and the annual Truck Pull Challenge, as well as promoted awareness for Second Harvest and food rescue at independent community events. She’s also painted a welcome sign that greets guests when they enter the Second Harvest office. Walk by any desk at Second Harvest and there’s a good chance you’ll see artwork she’s made for staff.
Gloria’s connection with Second Harvest goes back to 2019. After an entrepreneurial attempt in San Francisco, she found herself homeless in Toronto. During this time, she accessed social service organizations that received rescued food from Second Harvest.
An avid home cook, Gloria volunteered to make dinner for the residents at Margaret’s Housing and Community Support Services – where she was staying at this time. Wednesday was the best day of the week, because that’s when Second Harvest delivered fresh food. She was thrilled to see the fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and protein. “I fell in love with that food, because I was able to cook and make other people happy,” Gloria says with a smile. Fast forward to today and Gloria has regained her footing, is a champion for causes, continues to launch unique business ventures and has become a regular volunteer at Second Harvest.
As a volunteer, you don’t just get to give back. You learn.
“I know what it’s like to worry about meals,” she said, “I know what it’s like to not realize your potential because your everyday needs, like food and shelter, are not met.”
“As a volunteer, you don’t just get to give back. You learn,” she said.
At the inaugural Food Rescue Awards in February, Gloria was nominated for the Essential Harvester Award, which celebrates individuals that have demonstrated dedication to our mission through volunteering support. The nomination came as a surprise but meant so much to her. “The reason I can continue with my own projects is because of that love I’ve gotten from Second Harvest,” she said. “I’ve gotten so much from volunteering. It’s made me want to give back even more.”
Gloria has big plans for the future. She’s been brewing the idea of a culinary social enterprise since her time at Margaret’s Housing and Community Support Services, cooking with Second Harvest’s food. Once her venture ShelterCHEF gets off the ground, she plans to donate a portion of the profits to Second Harvest.