Filling Bellies and Hearts at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank

by Jill Gleeson
 Spend a little time chatting with Mark and Sue Glessner, and it quickly becomes apparent that though both are now retired, they’ve lost none of their energy. This charming couple, who live in Mechanicsburg and have been married for four decades this year, clearly enjoy life to the fullest. They’ve got a vacation home in the Poconos and spend January and February on Hutchinson Island in Florida, where Mark “counts the waves” while Sue surf fishes. They find fun wherever they go, including the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

Twice a month, the Glessners descend on the nonprofit with a passel of their friends, filling boxes with groceries that will be given to those who might go hungry without them.

Afterward, the troop gathers for good times at the Subway Café on Herr Street, an activity that’s earned them the nickname “The Subway Group” from Food Bank staff. By Sue’s reckoning, the more festive she and Mark can make volunteering, the better the chance people will keep coming back to do it with them. But that’s not to say that the pair don’t take their work, and the need for it, very seriously.

“I started volunteering at the Food Bank in 2007 when I retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers, where I was a managing partner,” Mark details. “And Susan began probably about a year and a half later after she retired from Good Shepherd School in Camp Hill. She was a phys.-ed. teacher. Up until then, I hadn’t really been aware of the amount of hunger that was out there. But you walk into this warehouse and see it full of food for those in need – and they’ve expanded since we started – and you know that this is a good cause.”

Along with helping to fill some of the roughly 4,500 boxes of groceries distributed through the Food Bank each month, Mark spends several days a week there unloading and organizing pallets of provisions that will be picked by partner agencies like soup kitchens. He’s also a board member of Andrew’s Gift and The Foundation of Hospice of Central Pennsylvania. He and Sue have three children (Jena, Adam and Jill) and three grandchildren (Sophie, 7; Jessa, 5; and Cole, 2), but they also find time to volunteer together at Good Shepherd and Camp Hill’s Trinity High School. As part of Trinity’s Day of Service activities, the Glessners take students to the Food Bank.

“We make sure they get a tour, but when Mark and I are helping them with the food, we talk about hunger,” Sue explains. “And you want to believe that they’ll go home and remember this experience and then continue with it…that’s why I always say, ‘Someday I hope that you can come back and do this.’ You hope that you’re creating volunteers for the future. For me, that’s very rewarding. And, of course, one of the greatest things about working at the Food Bank is that it’s something Mark and I do together. After all these years,” she adds with a chuckle, “we still like each other!”