OKLAHOMA CITY - It was only last week when the future looked uncertain for federal workers.
The government shutdown had been going on for longer than any time in history, lasting 35 days in total.
The fallout hit federal workers hard, with many going without two paychecks in a row.
But one employee of the Federal Aviation Agency, who was sidelined by the shutdown, put her extra time toward helping others in need.
She’s Sky Young, and in the absence of a job, she stepped up her already busy volunteer schedule at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
“As soon as the shutdown hit, she began volunteering here every single day,” Lisa Pitsiri, the Director of Development at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma said.
The Food Bank worked overtime to deal with an uptick of the federal workers who suddenly needed help, many of whom were down to their last dime.
“They had not had to go and have assistance before and they were running out of money, which meant that they were running out of food.”
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma kicked up its effort to deal with the increased demand.
Lisa Pitsiri nominated Sky Young for the Pay It 4ward award. Pitsiri says few volunteers rise to the occasion like Sky Young.
“She’s given her time so generously, always with a smile, a hug. She knits things for our staff. I mean, there is no better person who deserves this award more than she does.”
“It is amazing to hear what Sky does,” Brian Montgomery, a Senior Vice-President at First Fidelity Bank said. “That she was already a volunteer, working full time, and that she was furloughed and that she chose to spend her entire time working here to help others.”
As our team got ready to surprise Sky, the tension started to build.
That’s because to make this day happen, we had to do some sleuth work.
The government shutdown ended the Friday before News 4 and First Fidelity Bank could help Pay It 4ward, and Sky had already gone back to her job at the FAA. She was working to catch up.
But Lisa convinced Sky to come in on her lunch break on a Monday, and the surprise didn’t stay under wraps for long.
As we entered the room, Sky clapped her hands, started to cry and called it for what it was: “a set up.”
“Sky has been a regular volunteer of ours for quite a while,” Lisa Pitsiri said as we presented the award. “And when she was furloughed, she became a daily volunteer for us. There’s not one person up here who hasn’t been affected positively by getting to meet and getting to work with Sky.”
Sky, who was not expecting the award, says that she decided to help out because others need it.
“There’s always people that are doing worse off than you,” she said. “And you know, when I discovered the Food Bank and saw the great work that they’re doing, I wanted to be a part of it.”
“You meet so many wonderful people,” Sky continued. “We have fun packing boxes of food and it’s just a great place to be a part of humanity.”
Packing boxes and getting food ready to ship out is what Sky loves to do. For her, it isn’t work. It’s a chance to focus on something that needed to be done.
“It was like therapy for me to come out here every day and not think about it all the time,” Sky said, “like we did in 2013 where you just get totally stressed out and are like what do you do?”
One silver lining of the government shutdown is that some federal workers who didn’t know about the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma now know about it because of Sky’s work.
“Because of what they did, feeding the federal workers, more people that I talked to today said they’re gonna come out more and start giving more,” Sky said. “And it’s wonderful, it’s amazing to see people open their hearts up more."
“You know that I love you,” Sky said as the Food Bank team gathered for a group hug. “I love you guys, too. Family. Just straight up family. You can call me, whenever, as you do. Oh my goodness. Thank you.”
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is always looking for volunteers like Sky.
If you want to volunteer, visit their website at www.regionalfoodbank.org or call them at (405) 972-1111.
Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.