Johnny Chowaniec and Jonathan Rudolph have more in common than just their first name – they also share the same job and spirit of giving.
Rudolph, the store manager of the west side Home Depot in Madison, and Chowaniec, the store manager of the east side Madison Home Depot, made a surprise donation to the Fitchburg Senior Center last month.
Each brought a bucket of supplies, including masks, gloves, rags and disinfectants, to help safeguard the health of volunteers at the center.
The pair had a relationship with the center dating back several years to when volunteer program manager and nutrition site manager Mandi Miller reached out to them to donate a refrigerator and freezer from their stores.
However, the donation last month was not something Miller requested or expected.
“They just showed up one day. These managers are amazing community minded guys and we are so fortunate they thought of us,” Miller said.
The donated supplies are now being used by Meals on Wheels volunteers, who are continuing the home meal delivery program, despite the senior center building being closed due to COVID-19.
Miller said the main volunteer base for the program is older adults, who are among the most vulnerable for contracting the novel coronavirus illness.
Miller admitted that while it is “not a great idea for the volunteers to be outside,” the center is doing what it can to help them stay safe, which is why the donation from the Home Depot managers has been so helpful.
Starting last week, the center cut the number of distribution days by half to minimize contact with recipients of the food relief, but is delivering twice as many meals on the days it still delivers.
Miller has begun to find younger volunteers and is making her older volunteers stay home.
“We have so many seniors who are food insecure, we already feel awful we can’t do more as a staff, so it would be weird if we weren’t still doing Meals on Wheels,” she said.
The masks and gloves have also been put to use protecting the volunteers sent out to get groceries for shut-in seniors.
For their part, Rudolph and Chowaniec are humble about their donation.
“I’m leery about talking about donations because when you’re doing the right thing, you don’t want to make a big deal about it, it’s just the right thing to do,” Rudolph said.
“I’m never looking for recognition. I just want to take care of the community,” Chowaniec agreed.