Megan Holler at The River Food Pantry.

Why I give: Q&A with Megan Holler

Name: Megan Holler

Position: Research Technician

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Organizations supported: The River Food Pantry and Bikes for Kids Wisconsin

How do you support these organizations?

I have volunteered time and given money to both organizations. Originally, I helped The River Food Pantry get its first Forest Membership from Sustain Dane to help with sustainability efforts. In addition, I purchased a refurbished bike at Bike for Kids Wisconsin, a partner organization of The River, which helped support two kids getting a full bike package.

Bikes for Kids Wisconsin volunteers collect bikes on donation drive day.

At The River, I volunteered in the kitchen prepping meals for Family At-Home Meals (FAM), a curbside meal program during the week. For its Pantry Express program, I have engaged in distributing any extra FAM meals and groceries, which occurs every other Saturday. I enjoy interacting with each client and asking how their day is going. I also volunteer with the Munch Mobile Meals program, The River’s mobile meal program that delivers free, healthy meals to children and adults in low-income neighborhoods in Madison. The kids always look forward to seeing the Munch truck. This work helps bridge the gap between when school lunch is unavailable on weekends and during school breaks. Lastly, participating in Curbside Breakfast with the Bunny program, where “everybunny” is invited to enjoy a full Easter meal, including pancakes, eggs, ham, fruit, milk, and juice for the whole family. It’s an annual drive-thru event where volunteers wear bunny ears when handing out the meals. The kids’ faces are all smiles at this event, which makes it more than worth it.

Megan Holler with the refurbished bike she purchased to support Bikes for Kids Wisconsin.

At Bikes for Kids Wisconsin, I collected bikes in the fall with fellow volunteers. Volunteers refurbished them for distribution to kids in the spring. In addition, I participated in and helped organize the first South Side Slow Roll, which had 280 attendees. At the event, I helped to run the Virent tent that made smoothies for the participants on the blender bike. This group bike ride is inclusive and designed for those who have never participated in a large group ride. The fun and supportive community event was to foster a love of bicycling for those new to it and introduce them to the Dane County bike trails.

What is your favorite part about volunteering for these organizations?

I like volunteering at both organizations because they are collaboration partners. The River is a Bike Distribution Partner for Bikes for Kids Wisconsin and helps determine who receives the bikes for free within the community, because they see who is experiencing the most need. I love the collaboration between nonprofits, since it strengthens the community by providing multiple services from different angles within the community. The people I have gotten to work with are wonderful, friendly and enthusiastic about their work. They make a real difference in people’s lives by addressing food insecurity and transportation needs through equity and sustainability.

I also enjoy working with colleagues to help the community. It is nice to get to know my colleagues outside of work while making an impact on the community through volunteering.

How are these organizations making a difference in your community?

Julie Wiedmeyer (right), former Director of Development of The River Food Pantry, at Curbside Breakfast with Megan Holler (right) at the Bunny event in 2021.

Both organizations help better people’s lives through physical, emotional, mental, financial and economic well-being. I love how both organizations make everyone feel welcomed, empowered, encouraged, important and respected. The River Food Pantry improves community health by providing food to help with nutrition as a redistribution organization. Bikes for Kids Wisconsin provides transportation access for all people.

Both organizations are grounded in sustainability. The River works to create a sustainable food system. It expands access while reducing food waste. Bikes for Kids Wisconsin does this by refurbishing bikes into affordable means of everyday transportation, which also prevents used bikes from going to landfills. It has saved 72,000 pounds of scrap metal so far.

Jamie Sullivan (left) and Megan Holler (right) volunteering at the first South Side Slow Roll to run the blender bikes for Bikes for Kids Wisconsin.