OSFB Introduces Newest Board Member: Wally Burton
Wally Burton recently moved from Salt Lake City to Ocean Shores. A former insurance man with a history of helping others, he is a welcome addition to the Ocean Shores Food Bank board of directors. Here is his story, by Gary Josephson, Roving Reporter.
Q: What brought you to Ocean Shores?
My wife and I came out to visit my cousin and his new girlfriend, keeping in mind that we wanted to live somewhere on the coast. We spent some time looking and six months later, we were here. We actually didn’t even see the house before we bought it! My cousin was our eyes and ears. The first time we walked into our house was when we moved in. We felt this was the right place.
Q: Where did you live in Utah and what sort of work did you do there?
I lived in South Jordan, Utah (a suburb of Salt Lake City) and, for over 30 years, worked in property/casualty insurance. I started out as an underwriter, putting together commercial packages. After about five years, I became a marketing director. I didn’t sell the product directly to people; I worked through independent agents, looking at commercial businesses that nobody else would insure.
My heart had always been with working and helping people. Back when I was a toddler, like two years old, Easter Seals helped my family and me. So – some years later, of course, and after retiring – I jumped at the opportunity when a job opened to work for Easter Seals in a program called Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Though not strictly volunteer, my minimally paid job was to help senior citizens find employment. We dealt with homeless people, people recently released from prison, and drug addicts – some who hadn’t worked for 20 years, or more – helping them all to become employable and employed. I had my career, but those three years working for Easter Seals fed my heart and soul.
Q: How did you hear about our food bank?
This is a great story. I needed to get busy, needed to do something, and my heart is into helping people. Everyone I talked with spoke so highly of the food bank. I went there on distribution day, intending to be one of the people who loads up guests’ vehicles with food, and to talk with people. However, our food bank is run so smoothly and efficiently, and everybody has been at their job for so long, that they were all busy, so there really wasn’t much opportunity to talk. And, there was no vacant place on distribution day to help with the food. But, while there, I found out that they really needed another person on the board of directors – that was the only thing available. So, despite that I originally wanted to be one of the people handing out food, I interviewed with Sandy Harley, Executive Director. That has now come full circle for me because l’ve also started being a “wagoneer” on distribution day, so I have been able to do both. That makes me happy.
Q: What are your duties as a board member and how else do you help out?
Because of COVID-19, guests can’t go into the food bank building anymore; people now pull their cars into the Anchor Thrift Store parking lot and the food is delivered to them. The wagoneer pulls out a wagon full of food and puts food in their vehicle. They have a really cool color-coded system based on the number of household occupants. You look at the color of the sticker on the windshield, grab the wagon you need, pull it out there, and unload it into their car. You get the chance to talk with the people. Everyone is so grateful – it’s just incredible.
Right now my job is to help plan the future for the Ocean Shores Food Bank, and to see what we need to do to unite the new board so it is as effective as the old board. Harry Yanagimachi takes care of the insurance policies, as he was once in the business, too. His term on the board expires in December, so it just makes sense to hand off that role to me.
Q: What do you like best about working at the food bank and what is your favorite food bank story?
I retired, moved to Ocean Shores, and until now, I’ve never given to this community. I wanted to give back and help make it stronger, and the food bank gives me that opportunity. That’s what I like best.
My favorite story is not so much a story as a feeling – the feeling you get when you look into people’s eyes and they say ‘thank you.’
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