'My title is Whatever:' Iowa City volunteer puts in the hours to do 'whatever needs to be done'

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - An eastern Iowa nonprofit says it helps feed 19,000 people in Johnson County- but staff says that would be impossible without one of its volunteers that goes above-and-beyond.

Jerry Swails checks a truck at Table to Table on August 14, 2019 prior to moving it. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)

Table to Table serves as a "food rescue distribution" service. It collects foods from area businesses and schools that is otherwise unwanted, but still good, and bring it to agencies that can use it for the homeless, hungry, and others.

If you ever see a van for Table to Table in Iowa City, there is a good chance Jerry Swails had something to do with it.

"My official title is 'Whatever-' I'll do whatever needs to be done," said Swails, who has volunteered at the nonprofit for the last seven years.

After retiring from the University of Iowa, Swails decided to spend some hours helping out Table to Table. He said he did it, simply, because he needed something to do.

"I don't sit well, I have to be doing something most of the time," Swails said.

While staff members organize how to get food to those in need, Swails has spent more than 400 hours engineering ways to make it easier, but he and leaders of the organization admit that time may not account for everything he has done.

"I build things at home [if] something isn't quite right here," Swails said. "I have a huge shop at home, every woodworking tool you could ever need, so I take it home, rebuild it, and I forget to write that down."

Swails is referred to as the "Jerry-of-All-Trades," for clear reasons. He has refurbished furniture, engineered cooling strategies for their transportation trucks, and any other request that is asked of him.

"The truth is without a Jerry, the staff would do it," said Nicki Ross, the Executive Director for Table to Table. "It saves us money, we don't have to pay somebody and to be fair, I don't know that there's anybody we could pay to do what Jerry does."

Swails does not really remember why he started to volunteer at Table to Table, of all the places he could have gone. But years later, he says it is the nonprofit's mission that keeps him around.

"There's so many people- I have trouble believing how many people go hungry around here, and this food's going to go to waste," Swails said.

And after the years he has spent volunteering, Swails' impact on the organization is impossible to miss.

"He's really helping to feed 19,000 people in Johnson County," Ross said. "And we need those volunteers, those volunteers like Jerry, and really more Jerry's in this world."