Back to school is also back to nonprofit volunteer season


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.

Back to Action Campaign

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.

Local Volunteers Needed to Back in Action

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.

What Do Food Bank Volunteers Do?

“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.

How You Can Get Back in Action

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

More Ways to Support Local Nonprofits

  • September 1 – October 31st AAA is hosting their 15th Annual Soap for Hope Donation Drive. According to their website, the simple act of donating a bar of soap can have a huge impact on another person’s life. Soap for Hope, AAA Washington’s toiletry donation drive, aims to help our neighbors in need in Thurston County by donating all items locally toFirst Baptist Meal Ministry and Tumwater School District. While hygiene poverty isn’t as visible as hunger, it is still very real. Many people are unable to afford basic hygiene products that most of us take for granted.  The Soap for Hope campaign may just be this month our local AAA office will accept donations all year. According to AAA, since 2008, AAA distributed over 1,500,000 essential items to local charities throughout Washington and North Idaho. Go to the Soup for Hope site for a list of all the acceptable donations and drop-off site near you.

  • Calling all downtown Olympia enthusiasts! Join the LoveOly Cleanups on Saturday, September 30th, from 9 am to 11 am. According to the Olympia Downtown Alliance, “we're on a mission to transform and elevate our beloved downtown, and we need your passion and commitment to make it happen. Together, we'll create a cleaner, more vibrant, and even more lovable Olympia!”. For more details and to sign up go to

  • The City of Tumwater is seeking up to 6 volunteers to be Recycling and Compost Attendants at Tumwater’s Second Annual Falls Feston Saturday, September 30th. Our family attended this event last year. It is a beautiful event at Tumwater Falls focused on art, nature, salmon, and water. According to Alyssa Jones Wood, who is coordinating the volunteers for the event, she has three spaces available for the morning shift (9:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.) and three spaces available for the afternoon shift (1:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.).  “I’m happy to sign volunteer hours sheets if needed. Having Recycling and Compost Attendants at our City events helps us divert waste away from landfills and we can’t do that without volunteers!” says Jones Wood. To sign up or for more details, contact Jones Wood at or go to the City of Tumwater website

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


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