I had the pleasure of meeting with Hank Wolfe-Rodriguez, the Community Engagement and Cause Marketing Coordinator of Forgotten Harvest. Forgotten Harvest is a non-profit organization that fights hunger and waste by donating surplus food from community partners, such as restaurants or supermarkets, to emergency food providers in metro Detroit. What makes Forgotten Harvest unique amongst food banks is that it tackles waste alongside hunger, delivers its food free of charge, and focuses on the quality of food delivered rather than the quantity. Hank’s role specifically entails community outreach, as he is behind fostering partnerships between different organizations and Forgotten Harvest.
During our conversation, Hank shared his perspective on what qualities it takes on a personal and organizational level to ensure that work in the social impact sphere is profound. He particularly highlighted the need to listen to your community and to physically get out there to see the effect of your work. This message resonated with me because we both agreed that in order to build empathy, which is a crucial quality to have in social impact work, you must be able to emotionally connect with the motives that drive your project. In whatever my future work may be, I hope to remain ambitious and compassionate through continually striving to understand the experiences and perspectives of those around me.
It was also inspiring to hear how meaningful Hank’s work is to him. He mentioned previously working in the private sector, but ultimately feeling unfulfilled because he was not serving any higher, more socially valuable purpose. Serving his community is so rewarding that to a certain point he finds it selfish about how great it makes him feel to give back. This passion to improve society is often what distinguishes social impact work from more traditional, profit-driven work. Society’s biggest challenges require collaboration amongst the most creative and dedicated minds, and it is refreshing to see that there are authentic, genuine people behind the revitalization of Detroit such as Hank. Ultimately, it was moving to hear Hank describe his social impact work as having greater benefits than just making a salary, and I aspire to find similar meaning in my own future career.