The start of the school year often signals the start of the volunteer season as people return to their previous routines. However, due to the pandemic, some folks have not returned to their previous volunteering and so a regional campaign has started to address this.
According to a recent news release, food insecurity across the state is growing; more families and individuals are facing hunger. To support food banks in Washington, a regional partnership has been formed to try to help boost the number of people volunteering at food banks. The campaign, called Back to Action, partners Northwest Harvest, Safeway, Washington Food Coalition, Vault89 Strategies, the Seattle Seahawks, and KING 5 to support the work of food banks by sponsoring a drive to bring volunteers back to help food distribution efforts.
According to Judy Jones, Development Director at our local Thurston County Food Bank (TCFB), volunteer numbers for TCFB and other hunger relief agencies have yet to recover from the pandemic. “We lost more than half of our regular volunteers and although we have gained some new volunteers, we are experiencing challenges in providing the necessary organizational infrastructure that a full cadre of volunteers would offer,” says Jones. “(Through this campaign) We are hoping to grow our volunteer ranks by at least 100, with the goal of most of those becoming regular (weekly) volunteers”. According to Jones, in 2022, TCFB utilized 2,315 volunteers; some were one-time (the industry term is episodic), while others were regular (weekly) volunteers. Together, TCFB gained 47,000 hours of service by volunteers, which is equivalent to 1,175 full-time employees.
“At our Tumwater warehouse we do some of the more traditional food bank work having folks sort donations and pack food bags and boxes,” says Jones. “While in our downtown Olympia and Lacey pantries, the work centers on serving our clients directly through a shopping model distribution and the work it takes to support that effort. The pantry work can include preparing our distribution floors efficiently and appealingly, being shopping ambassadors, and supporting the client check-in process”. In addition, volunteers make home deliveries to older adults, deliver food bags to local elementary schools, and support special holiday distributions.
The regional volunteer recruitment drive will kick off with a Back to Action Day of Service this Saturday, September 23, and will run through Sunday, December 31. The drive aims to sign up 3,000 or more food bank volunteers for hunger resource organizations across the state, including our own TCFB. At the September event, members of the Seahawks Super Bowl 48 championship team will join Seahawks staff to volunteer and demonstrate that defeating food insecurity is a team sport, the release said. Click here to learn more or participate in the Back in Action event you can find out more about volunteering at our local food bank at https://tcfb.org/volunteer/
Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at MaryBeth@theJOLTnews.com
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