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Power of the People

When I first arrived at the Brumby Elementary food pantry, I noticed a core group of volunteers mixed in with the YMCA staff members. Upon first glance, I could tell this core group was something special. I had showed up to start volunteering on a regular basis for the YMCA, thankful to learn that a volunteer opportunity was only 10 minutes away from my house and something I could do on a weekly basis. Little did I understand about the need for the food pantry in the community nor what the group of individuals had developed over the past few years.

After a couple of months of volunteering, I started to get it. The roles that each volunteer took on – some were more operations leaning, others handled clean-up while some were more inclined to connect with the families lining up in their cars to pick up food. The pantry is open weekly to the community to ensure families get the food needed. Rain or shine, nearly 100 degrees or freezing, the volunteers only take a couple of weeks off each year. This is one of the beautiful things I’ve learned about the YMCA and their “equity at the heart” core value. The organization aims to build communities and cater to their needs, beyond just wellness. And while the YMCA is incredible in managing with various partners such as the Atlanta Food Bank to get the weekly food deliveries, it’s the volunteers that were truly moving.

As I was building Angelfish at the same moment of volunteering, the YMCA came to me with an ask to tell the story of the volunteers. They wanted a story that showed the “power of the people” and how it can influence the community. Knowing I wanted to tell stories for this organization and since I was familiar with the pantry and volunteers, I jumped at this opportunity to not only capture this story but also to begin building my relationship as a storyteller with the organization.

In researching the piece, I learned the full story of how the pantry got started, how they managed during Covid and what keeps them going to this day. During the interviews with the volunteers, I learned about the behind the scenes work that happens each week. The extra milk that would arrive from the local grocery. The clothes from Goodwill that would show up if it was cold that week. Or if meat was on sale, a volunteer would arrive and have it available in the distribution line. These little ‘extras’ are the bits you can’t teach someone, it’s something innate that someone just has, that wants to give back and help. To provide for the community because it’s the right thing to do. And this was the ‘power of the people’ that the YMCA wanted to capture and have available to share to donors.

For videography and editorial, I collaborated with Erin Goodier of Goodier Creative. We met at The Lola, an inclusive co-working and networking organization for women. We have a similar sensibility and style in storytelling that made creating this piece a joy. Erin and I just ‘clicked’ from the start and this project jumpstarted a creative relationship for us.

Upon completing the Brumby Volunteer Story, the YMCA shared the piece with one of their partners and was able to immediately receive a significant donation. The power of video was already a resource for the client in obtaining funding as well as telling a volunteer story. Plus, I was expanding in my relationship with my client as I began consulting on upcoming initiatives and pitching treatments for yearlong campaigns.

This piece, ‘the power of people,’ will always be one of my favorites as it signifies the beginning of so much for me while it also shows the heart of human kindness. As I continue to develop content for the YMCA and additional underserved voices in the community, I aim to bring this heart to each and every piece.


Chris Glass Hartley

Storyteller. Executive Producer. Change Maker.

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