Volunteer of the Month: Carol Henri

June 24, 2021

CUESA’s Volunteer of the Month program recognizes the dedication and work of some of our most active volunteers. CUESA relies on volunteers to help with education programs, special events, public outreach, and other activities that help fulfill our mission to cultivate a sustainable food system. Most of our regular volunteer opportunities are currently on hold with the exception of farmers market roles. Learn more about volunteering here.

As California and San Francisco opened up this month with the local vaccination rates at 80%, CUESA has moved to resuming some of its regular events but with pandemic safety still in mind. CUESA held its first Summer Picnic with the support of our events committee, Foodwise Teens Summer Fellows, and volunteers. Volunteer of the Month for the second time, Carol Henri was indispensable for this event, preparing materials in the office and kitchen and shuttling supplies to Daly City and the East Bay for our multi-location, behind-the-scenes logistics to make the picnic a success.

To beat pandemic isolation, Carol kept busy with CUESA volunteer activities. In addition to packing take-home packages for the CUESA Farmers Market Box, Foodwise Teens, and Sunday Supper, she has helped out at the handwashing stations and Veggie Valet at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and decorating for Halloween at Mission Community  Market.

“Since first tagging along with a fellow volunteer two years ago, Carol really stepped up to support CUESA during the pandemic in a big way,” says Cindy Mendoza, Volunteer and Special Projects Coordinator. “It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship, and we are so happy that she is so committed to CUESA.” Meet Carol, and learn a little more about her.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Carol: Both my grandfathers were farmers: My mother’s father farmed in Hawaii, where he met my grandmother, and then came to Southern California for the orange groves. My mother loved to say she was born in Beverly Hills when it was nothing but orange groves! My father’s father was a strawberry farmer, and my dad was born in Watsonville, and he and my uncles worked in the produce business in Oakland for many years.

I think my foodie tendencies came to fruition during living in Berkeley during the late seventies/early eighties when Alice Waters perfected California cuisine, the co-op market sold amazing produce and bin items, and Berkeley Bowl (which started in an old bowling alley!) upped the produce game by carrying such an assortment of delightful and unusual food items.

CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CUESA? And how has the pandemic impacted you?

Carol: I am on the Board of Directors for three different performing arts organizations: Oakland Symphony, SF Bach Choir, and Tactus SF and am Treasurer of two of them, so that has kept me extremely busy, which was essential to maintaining my sanity during the pandemic lockdown!  I also am an avid downhill skier, and was thankful that Tahoe resorts remained open with stringent COVID standards, so I could head up there again from December through April to get my “floating in powder” fix!

I felt so isolated and alone during lockdown, despite the myriad of seemingly endless Zoom calls.  I had been regularly singing and performing with two choirs, and when live singing became impossible, starting March 2020 it put a huge hole in my life that seemed impossible to fill. With my other passions of travelling, dining, theater, and concerts all restricted, it was a very challenging time, and I was grateful to have the CUESA staff, farmers,  and volunteer community to look forward to every week.

CUESA: Why are you choosing to volunteer with us at this time?

Carol: It gives me a much needed sense of belonging and community during the lockdown and distancing protocols. Now that restrictions are being lifted, I feel it is even more rewarding to help make CUESA events joyful experiences for all involved. I look forward to helping at in-person events soon!

CUESA: What does the farmers market community mean to you? 

Carol: It has been my rock and extended family throughout this long 15 months back to reopening and a sense of social normalcy. I’ll never forget when I first met Poli at Yerena Farms and shared that my grandfather had been a strawberry farmer in Watsonville, and he just lit up and told me that when he first started farming strawberries there, all the strawberry farmers were of Japanese heritage. That just cemented an even stronger bond with the community. After this past year-plus of the pandemic, I feel like I’m a part of the CUESA staff, and they know they can count on me to lend a hand when they need it most.