Covid inspired this college student to action

Nov 23, 2020

A chance encounter in 2019 led this San Francisco native all the way to a Companis placement with agency partner Tukwila Pantry.  Now he serves hundreds of families each week at King County’s second largest food bank. And his inspiration is the Covid pandemic.

Craig Darling was visiting San Francisco in July 2019 to attend a wedding. The Companis Founding Director and President Emeritus dove into a restaurant for a quick bite, and struck up a conversation with city native Oliver Kogod. He was home on break from his program in American Studies at George Washington University in D.C. In short order, Craig told Oliver about the opportunities a Companis placement can offer students like him, with chances to expand horizons and experience, in support of a degree. Oliver remembered that conversation, and kept Craig’s card.

This past summer, when Covid restrictions meant GWU would not reopen to students in the dorms this Fall, Oliver decided to create a ‘gap’ semester, rather than attend classes from his San Francisco home. He contacted us and told us of his interest in volunteering in food security to assist folks impacted by economic crisis caused by Covid. We introduced Oliver to Tukwila Pantry director Jan Bolerjack, and soon Oliver was in his car driving north for this new experience. He serves five days each week, and the Pantry has gone from serving 80 families a day prior to Covid, to 500 families who line up in their cars, three days each week. The Pantry recently became the second-busiest food bank in King County in terms of the number of clients served.

Even with the National Guard on hand to help out, food banks like the Pantry need skilled staff to help manage the sudden growth in their programs. Oliver is both in an admin role and on the front lines in service. “I’ve really seen the impact of my efforts here, and I’ve met a lot of cool people at the Pantry,” he says. As he prepares to head back to school in January, is he glad he served through Companis in 2020? “Oh yes, I’m so glad I did. I knew I could’t just be on the sidelines during this time in our country’s experience.” Thank you, Oliver. You are the perfect example of “where compassion meets action.”