Mother’s Day Spotlight: Southwest Key Volunteers Stefanie Montoya and Scout Garza
Ninth grader Scout Garza has been volunteering at Southwest Key’s Mobile Food Pantry with her mother Stefanie Montoya ever since her induction into the National Junior Honor Society in the 6th grade required her to perform community service. Her mother Stefanie has worked with Southwest Key’s benefits broker for years, so they immediately thought of Southwest Key when considering volunteer options.
Southwest Key’s Mobile Food Pantry is a joint partnership with Capital Area Food Bank that distributes food to the community on the second Friday of every month at Southwest Key’s headquarters in Austin, Texas. “The impact the food bank has had on Scout is amazing,” says Stefanie. “She thinks about ways not to be wasteful with food and realizes how blessed we are.”
Scout and Stefanie say they have continued to volunteer with Southwest Key beyond Scout’s required community hours because of how welcome they feel. Scout has built relationships with many of the food bank visitors and enjoys helping those who are in need, especially carrying the heavy food bags to the elderly client’s cars. “Mom, what if that were you? I would want someone to help you,” says Scout.
“It brings us closer because we are working together and sharing a commitment to help people,” she continues. “It’s also fun spending time with my mom and talking to the community with her.”
Stefanie recalls a particular day when Scout was handing out orange juice to a client who had just come from a job interview. The woman was appreciative of the juice and she told Scout that as soon as she got a job, she planned to buy oranges with her first paycheck. They wished the woman good luck and said they would pray for her. “After the woman left, Scout asked me if I could give the woman some money or take her to HEB to buy some oranges,” says Stefanie. She explained to Scout that she could not because, “part of being a volunteer is to follow the rules and guidelines that are set. I also explained that if I did this for one person, I would need to do it for every person in line,” says Stefanie. To this day, Scout still remembers this woman when we buy orange juice or oranges; she knows it’s a privilege to have fresh fruit.
From volunteering at the food bank, Scout has learned that a large percentage of her community qualifies as working poor. “She questions why veterans are without food when these people served our country and protected our freedom. Sometimes, I don’t always have the answers to her questions,” says Stefanie, “but we talk about her questions on the drive home and it makes her more aware of the advantages she has been given.”
Stefanie feels the entire experience has helped her be a better mom by teaching Scout about commitment and giving back to the community. “I know the food bank has been a humbling experience for us both and it has brought us closer,” she says.
Scout really enjoys working with the staff from Capital Area Food Bank and Southwest Key. “Kristan Silva is so nice! She gave me my first Southwest Key shirt that says VOLUNTEER on the back and I love it! It made me feel very special,” says Scout. Silva is Southwest Key’s Youth Services Coordinator for Children’s Promise.
Scout believes that volunteering with her mom makes their bond stronger because they work as a team. On the drive home after the food bank, Scout enjoys chatting with her mom about their experience. “In the winter, we are freezing and in the summer, we are sweaty from the work. But it’s all worth it because we are helping people have food to eat,” says Scout.
Stefanie and Scout plan on volunteering at the Food Bank the Friday before Mother’s Day.