While the Big “I" state and national executive leadership and Board of Directors met at the 2022 Big "I" Winter Meeting in Miami on Jan. 5-8, their spouses brought back a long-standing tradition of serving the local community.
Sixteen Big “I" leadership spouses joined together to volunteer with food bank , sorting the equivalent of 15,000 meals, on the morning of Jan. 8.
Annie Fee, wife of Big “I" Chairman Bob Fee, was inspired to coordinate the event from an experience fourteen years ago when she got involved in another volunteer event.
In 2008, when Bob Fee was the president of the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents (KAIA), they attended the Big “I" Winter Meeting in the Bahamas, where there were not one but two volunteer events for attending spouses. Annie Fee volunteered at an animal shelter.
“We cleaned a lot of dog pens and areas, painted the houses like new, anything they needed. This is where I first met Alex and Patty Soto," she recalls. Alex Soto, among the Feeding South Florida volunteers along with Patty, is a Big “I" past president. “Their deep joy in giving back had a huge impact on me … it never left me."
Knowing she wanted to bring back volunteer opportunities at the 2022 Big “I" Winter Meeting, Annie Fee turned to Patty Soto and Barb Rusbuldt, wife of Big “I" president & CEO Bob Rusbuldt, to scout the volunteer opportunities in the Miami area. When she reached out, Feeding South Florida replied immediately.
“Do you know the U.S. throws out 40% of their food annually? That's huge," Annie Fee says. Feeding South Florida puts 98% of all their donations back into the community, and last year distributed nearly 176 million pounds of food to over 1.4 million individuals. The food bank feeds 25% of Florida's food insecure population.
The volunteers sorted food for three hours, and while a group their size would normally sort 14,000 pounds of food during that time, they went above and beyond and sorted 17,000 pounds.
“When we got back on the bus, I could see and hear the wheels turning," Annie Fee says. “They were talking about some of the organizations they work with at home. This is definitely a community-minded group of people!"