Ann Arborite Paula Dana
When Dana returned to the States in 1994, she decided to trade vet tech work for social services. But it wasn't easy to find a good match; she worked at Pier 1 and Arbor Farms before landing a job at Catholic Social Services, where for three years she oversaw its Retired Seniors Volunteer Program. When that job ended, she worked briefly at Panera Bread before joining Food Gatherers in 2003.
The common thread, she says, is hunger: "I was helping people feed themselves through their livestock ... now I'm helping people feed themselves" at the kitchen. The job is physically and emotionally demanding (Spring says Dana's only taken two sick days in ten years), and Dana says she requires some "quiet space" to step away and "recharge." She relaxes by riding her motorcycles. She owns two Ducati Monsters--Italian-made "muscle bikes"--and takes longer trips when she can. She also tends a small flower garden at her Ypsilanti condo.
During Tuesday's lunch, Dana circles the kitchen in perpetual motion--pointing, redirecting, and repeating the same knife safety and cleanup drills she's gone over countless times before. "Doin' a great job!" she says, encouraging the volunteers who are serving up chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cucumber salad. After kitchen cleanup, meal tickets are counted, and Dana announces they've served 105 people today. In another hour or so staff will welcome the next group of volunteers to start preparations for dinner.