Every Thursday for the last 11 years, John Lynch, former associate dean and associate professor in the College of Health Sciences, can be found volunteering at Friedens Food Pantries. This year, his efforts were recognized with the Hope House Peace Builder Award.
Before retiring from UWM in 2009, Lynch picked up a volunteer role through the Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership, and Research office to continue being active in his community.
“It’s my way of giving back,” Lynch said. “When I was working at the university, I didn’t have as much time to volunteer.”
Now, alongside UWM students, Lynch volunteers his time by stocking the pantry and serving clients in Milwaukee’s south side. The pantry is operated by Friedens but shares the space with Hope House, where clients within a certain ZIP code can shop for groceries three days a week.
“They don’t take more than they need,” Lynch said about the clients he serves. “They know that there are other people, like them, who are probably even more in need of food.”
During the semester, as many as eight UWM student or staff volunteers assist at the pantry on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Though there are days where Lynch and only one other volunteer are responsible for assisting up to 50 families in one day.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Lynch said. “We want to help every single family that comes.”
The pantry’s client group is primarily from the Latino community. Lynch says it’s remarkable to watch students who are learning Spanish help interpret for and welcome clients.
“I’m heartened that people have a sense that there is a need and that they can contribute — especially right now,” Lynch said.
The award ceremony honoring Lynch’s long-term commitment to the community was postponed, so a video was made about his mentorship and dedication to the Hope House.
This is the first time Lynch has been recognized for his volunteer work. “I feel very honored and privileged,” Lynch said.