“It feels really good to use all my skills to help this great organization out in a time of great need.”

John Sheehan, 66, started his Encore Fellowship with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, one of the largest food banks in the country, a few months before the pandemic hit. Since then, physical distancing changed everything about how the food bank operates, while school closures and rising unemployment dramatically increased the need for the food bank’s services.

A data analyst, Sheehan quickly began using mapping software to identify where Second Harvest could establish emergency drive-throughs to cover the largest possible territory.

“John’s mapping work is allowing Second Harvest to quickly assess where we should implement new distribution sites,” says Holly Cohen, the food bank’s manager of client marketing and program evaluation. “With his help, we’ve launched nine large-scale emergency drive-throughs in less than three weeks. It’s unprecedented.”

Many of the drive-throughs are in church parking lots, thanks to a partnership with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. The food is pre-boxed, clients drive up and pop their trunk, volunteers put the box in the car while maintaining safe distance, and the client drives away.

“One of my goals,” he says, ‘is looking at attendance at various sites.” This will help Second Harvest get the right amount of food to the right places, particularly as needs increase and change over time.

Second Harvest has over 310 nonprofit partners and other collaborations are in the works. “We just had a talk this morning with the people from the City of San Jose,” says Sheehan. “People are starting to think down the line, and they want to help us, and we want to collaborate with them. Hopefully some good is going to come out of this in the end.”

Like many other staffers, Sheehan is now working from home. “I’d rather be there with all those wonderful people,” he says, “but so far it’s working pretty well.”

Encore Fellowships match skilled, seasoned professionals with social sector organizations in high-impact, paid engagements lasting from six months to one year. Since 2009, approximately 2,000 individuals have provided over two million hours of service to nonprofits. 

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