VCCF Donor Spotlight: Interview with David Bayer

 In Blog

It is no surprise that the impact of legendary local volunteer David Bayer has also touched the VCCF community as a past scholarship reader and member of the VCCF Donor Peer Network. Over the last 22 years, David has served his community as a regular volunteer and past board member at Food Share of Ventura County.

“David Bayer is the consummate volunteer – passionate, hardworking and selfless,” said Monica White, president and CEO of Food Share. “I repeat his mantra all the time while giving tours at Food Share: ‘Our volunteers come for the mission and stay for the friends they make.’”

Originally from the San Fernando Valley, David came to Ventura to work as a firefighter, a career in which he served our community for 32 years. While David was still working as a firefighter, he thought ahead to what he wanted out of his retired life, and considered continuing his service in a new way: as a community volunteer. He started volunteering while he was still working to get a feel for the experience, and since then, he has become inseparable from Food Share and its work throughout the county.

David was nominated the 2018 Community Quarterback by the Los Angeles Rams and SoCal Honda, which “celebrates outstanding individuals who display strong leadership abilities and a passion for bettering their community.” At the time of receiving this honor, he had clocked over 3,200 volunteer hours since beginning his service in 2002.

Growing up, did you have any early experiences with giving back to your community, whether it was philanthropy, volunteering, or something else?

I was a Boy Scout, and the scout law is, “A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” And when you write your article, you can say that he remembers the whole motto still. The whole early experience taught me right from wrong at an early age.

Who or what inspires you in the ways you give back to your community?

My mother was born in 1916 in Niagara Falls. Her father died when she was 15, so that makes it the height of the Great Depression. There was no way that she was going to be able to go to college. How often did women get scholarships during that time? So, two of her female teachers, English and speech, thought she should go to school and paid for her to go to Syracuse and she graduated in 1940 with her masters in speech, and then she went to be a speech therapist. She met my father during the war at a USO, and they married.

So, out of this bleak situation of her father dying early, my sister was a schoolteacher, my brother was a doctor, and I became a fireman, so through that union and the generosity from those two women, the three of us have definitely given back to the community. That tells you what can happen when somebody steps up to the plate and helps out. That’s where I come from, owing everything to two schoolteachers from Niagara Falls. So the Scholarship Committee, which is where I started with VCCF, they pass out those scholarships, and it can make an enormous difference on the family and in the community.

When you were first drawn to volunteering, what pulled you towards Food Share’s work?

I think there’s always a fear of what you’re going to do when you’re retired, and I was only 54 years old. What are you going to be afterwards? You don’t want to be the guy across the street and say, “Oh, he used to be a fireman, he’d like to do something else.” So, I sort of was aware of that, so I started volunteering at the Ventura Friends of the Library before I retired, and then one of the gentlemen there suggested I go to Food Share, and that’s how I ended up at Food Share for the last 22 years.

What inspired you to open a fund at VCCF?

When I was on the board of Food Share for three years, Vanessa (Bechtel, VCCF President & CEO) came to talk to the board (during the 2018 mudslides). She was living in Santa Barbara, and the freeway was closed down, and we just asked her to come at 6 o’clock just to chat with us before we had our meeting. And she took a boat, a taxi and a plane to get here just to talk to us and visit with us for an hour to explain VCCF. She took a boat; she must have started early in the day, from Santa Barbara to Ventura Harbor. And then to bypass the freeway and then head back, she took an airplane! And cabs and people picking her up. It was like, “Just come next month!” is what we all said. “Wait a while!”

But no, she insisted on being there. And then later on, when our board had a hiccup, through the VCCF, she came to our rescue, and that’s what the fund is for. You have a fund, and then there’s a committee that decides how to spend the money, so your money is watched over. It just shows how dedicated she is to the community, just from a “Hello,” you know she’s somebody special.

What advice do you have for anyone who would like to make a difference in their community?

You start with volunteering, and there’s lots of opportunities out there to volunteer. And you find one, if you’re an accountant, say your neighbor across the street does taxes for people in Camarillo and volunteers for AARP. There’s something out there that’s a good fit, and that’s what makes a difference.

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