Maurice Bonecutter won’t be back for his usual volunteer shifts this week at the Harry Chapin Food Bank, but he leaves behind a legacy of good will and giving.
At 93, the food bank’s oldest volunteer is moving on.
He’s volunteered at the food bank since 2011, first as a snowbird, then as a permanent resident. Over the years he could be spotted at the food bank’s Fort Myers Distribution Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays, sorting canned goods, frozen meat, fresh produce, anything that needed doing.
“He is a dynamo,” said Linda Mitchell one of his fellow volunteers. “He is the hardest worker. He can work circles around us.”
Now one of his daughters is here to help him pack up and move to greener pastures – but not out to pasture. Bonecutter is moving to Midland, in western Texas, to be closer to family. He’s looking forward to having his own apartment in an active retirement community.
Bonecutter spent his last volunteer shift Thursday helping sort a variety of bread and other baked goods donated by retailers. His fellow volunteers celebrated his last day with an impromptu pizza party.
“He is an inspiration to all of us,” said Richard LeBer, food bank president and CEO. “His example shows that anyone, at any age, can contribute to the fight against hunger, if the desire is there.”
Bonecutter has mostly worked behind the scenes sorting food, but he has also been involved in food distributions. In addition to his work at the food bank, he volunteered at All Souls Episcopal Church, a Harry Chapin Food Bank partner agency, on Wednesdays. Last week, he gave out 182 bags of food at the church.
Bonecutter first volunteered because he saw the need, but he continued because of the sense of caring shared by the food bank’s volunteer community.
“I see the willingness to help others,” he said. “I think that it’s just a marvelous thing for our society, that people have concern for others.” He also likes the way the food bank operates. “It’s run very efficiently,” he said. The fact that only 4 percent of funds raised go toward administrative operating costs and 96 percent go toward food bank programs is significant, compared to other organizations, he said.
Bonecutter is no stranger to hard work. Born June 7, 1926, he’s the youngest of seven children. All but one of his siblings lived until age 90 or more. “I never drank or smoke,” he said. “I never even drank coffee.”
Bonecutter grew up on a farm in the northeast corner of Indiana. He remembers the family not having electricity in the early 1930s, working by the light of lanterns, butchering their own meat. First they grew a few acres of tomatoes and picked the fruit themselves. Eventually they farmed 700 acres, growing corn, wheat, soybeans.
Helping those in need comes naturally to him. He graduated in 1954 from Indiana Central College, now the University of Indianapolis, with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and religion. He became a pastor with the United Methodist Mission and worked for about 26 years with Indian, Spanish and Anglo cultures in Espanola, N.M., near Santa Cruz. He ran a residential rental business on the side.
He was married – and widowed- twice. He first marriage lasted for 46-and-a-half years. He was married to his second wife, who died two years ago, for 14 years.
Bonecutter has two daughters and a son, seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
When he wasn’t spending time helping others, his hobby was collecting antique cars, including two Model Ts. The first, a 1919 Model T, was donated to the national Model T Ford Museum in Richmond, Ind. The second, a 1926 Model T, was given to his son.
Nobody may ever be able to fill Bonecutter’s shoes, but he’s hoping someone will follow in his footsteps. If you would like to volunteer at the Harry Chapin Food Bank, go to harrychapinfoodbank.org, click on Take Action, and then on Give Time/Volunteer. You can also call 239-334-7007, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.