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Food Bank Volunteer Kaleigh Finds Inspiration at CommUnity

To say that Kaleigh is busy is an understatement. Not only does she have a full class schedule at the University of Iowa where she studies Biomedical Engineering on a Pre-Medicine track, Philosophy, and Entrepreneurial Management, but she also plays soccer for the UIowa women’s team, volunteers at Mercy Hospital, and volunteers at the checkout in CommUnity Food Bank. 

Her motivation for staying so busy? She says she wants to make as many “purposeful and positive personal connections” as possible. In her volunteer work at CommUnity, Kaleigh values the impact she is able to make in small ways.

“There are a lot of times when people are having a rough day, and I like being able to provide a lending ear. There have been people that have had cancer treatments, and they’re coming in to get food, or someone that can barely get out of the house because of their back pain, and just being able to listen to them and let them talk through it or vent to someone [is] probably what’s most important to me,” Kaleigh says. “I just think every day if I can get one person to say, ‘Thank you for listening to me,’ or if I’m able to make them smile when they are obviously having a bad day, that’s all I want to do.”

Kaleigh also acknowledges the effect her experience volunteering with CommUnity Food Bank has had on her personal academic journey and career aspirations. She originally decided to pursue a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management with the hopes of being able to open her own private practice or help out with a family business. However, her reason for pursuing that certificate changed after getting to know CommUnity’s clients. Through those interactions, she came to realize that medical bills can lead to food insecurity.

“Working here, I see that there’s a real direct connection between people who have a lot of medical problems and [people] who have those food insecurities, because [the cost of] healthcare is so extremely high right now. So, I’m currently applying to MD/MBA programs, because I want to—obviously, I can’t change all of it —but I want to help change what’s happening with healthcare, and hopefully get in that administrative position to where it won’t be as expensive for patients, and they won’t need to come [to CommUnity] because of food insecurity.”

Additionally, Kaleigh says that CommUnity staff and volunteers have taught her about leadership and the kind of organization she wants to work with as she takes the next steps in her career.

“I always want to come here every day, and everyone always has a smile on their face, and I know that they want to be here as well,” Kaleigh says. “[They have] shown me, one: how to lead, and two: where I want to end up once I do leave Iowa City.”