Food shelf worker finds joy in meaningful work

Saundra L. Holden
Saundra L. Holden (Photo by Dwight Hobbes)

How often can you combine professional goals, personal desire, and get to help others in the process? Saundra L. Holden, program coordinator at Community Emergency Services (CES), does exactly that.

“I’m at a place in my life where, if [a position] doesn’t satisfy me personally, I don’t want to do it professionally,” she reflects, relaxing on a CES lawn bench. “I had been [out of the workforce] a few years. I had worked for Mental Health Resources for RS Eden, and when I went to re-enter the workforce, before diving completely in, [I] decided to come here first and get my feet wet. It was kind of a natural progression.”

Holden took to it like the proverbial duck to water, volunteer interning in 2012, handling such chores as clientele intake and distributing food until she was offered not one, but a choice of jobs. “The second one, home food coordinator, seemed to fit perfect with all aspects of my personality. It had the computer part which I enjoy, personal relations, building relationships with the community. It also has the physical-labor-intensive part that sort of keeps me from being stagnant.

“That’s why I chose this particular job,” continues Holden. “I’ve always enjoyed working with and helping people, so the field itself was a natural progression.” Part of that progression is the satisfaction of seeing to it that for the homebound who can’t come in to access CES’ food shelf, the food shelf comes to them.

Holden does the mundane grunt work as well. “I keep stats, order groceries. I do the annual report for the agency,” she explains.

“Since its origin,” states the CES website, “this agency has provided high-quality direct service to people in need. Through direct aid relief, advocacy, referral, guidance and prayer support, if desired, CES seeks to strengthen families and individuals. The goal of CES is to move them beyond crisis to financial stability, as well as emotional health, personal growth and spiritual depth.”

Ultimately Holden finds it most rewarding to make a difference in the community. “Knowing people have access to resources they didn’t have before touches an important part of me. That’s fulfilling, knowing people can receive what they need.”

An admirable attitude when, in today’s economic climate, soup kitchens and food shelves help salvage impoverished men, women and children who languish on society’s sidelines, subsisting dollar to dollar, hand to mouth. And neither this past presidential administration nor either candidate in the upcoming elections has committed to empowering the disadvantaged.

After all, the poorest people are least likely to vote, preoccupied as they are with keeping a roof overhead, putting food on the table and clothes on their backs. Holden has, in fact, been there, done that.

“I remember when I was on that side of the fence and I was in need of resources and someone helped me,” Holden explains. “[I] obtained access to things and services I was unable to otherwise acquire on my own. All it takes is intervening.

“Just like it takes a village to raise family, I think it takes a village to uplift a community. We all need to pitch in and help each other. We don’t do that enough.”

Why CES? With Saundra Holden’s virtual pedigree in social services, she could’ve probably had her pick of employment. Consider highlights from her resume: University of Minnesota B.S. with honors majoring in family social science, minoring in social work; acquiring certification in family violence prevention; case manager at Mental Health Resources and at Community Involvement Programs; and interning at Family & Children Services — Initiative for Violence Free Families, including membership in the Northside Violence Prevention Action Team.

“It [is the faith-based component] that appeals to me, the fact that people can come here and freely express their religious aspects if they want. They don’t have to if they don’t want to.”

There’s also camaraderie: “I like working with coworkers who also have that kind of philosophy, just having a spiritual side to them [with] their principles and values based in that spirituality. That includes my buddy in the office next door,” referring to Meals on Wheels administrator Shawnda Hobson.

Holden sums up, “I love working here. I love my community.”


For more information on Community Emergency Services, go to or call 612-870-1125.

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.