Unexpected side effect of the fire: new volunteers

Unexpected side effect of the fire: new volunteers
September 27, 2011 Betsy Stone

New volunteers included a group from the Metro Chamber

Seventh in a series

River City Food Bank has long prided itself on its low overhead and incredibly diligent volunteer workforce.  Many of our 100+ volunteers made working at River City Food Bank part of their weekly lives for dozens of years.  You’d see them greeting our clients and processing information, weighing groceries, restocking, preparing bags for clients, and helping with administrative activities like mailings.

Our stalwarts hung in there through the long fall and winter months, first huddling under tents in the rain for our scrappy street operation, then “camping” at Trinity Cathedral, and finally stomping their feet to restore some warmth and circulation in our unheated temporary location in the Sutter Medical Center Sacramento parking garage. (They missed the winter chill once the summer heat set in!)

A welcome side benefit of the fire was an influx of new volunteers.  By the time we wrapped up in late December, 79 new volunteers had come forward.

Welcoming, training and orienting that many new volunteers takes a lot of effort. Thankfully, our volunteer coordinator Barbara Edwards, was committed to the task.  To Barbara, working on behalf of River City Food Bank is her quiet response to Christ’s call to take care of the poor and hungry.  You may never talk with her about her reasons for getting so involved, but you can see it in her dedication and gentle, kind demeanor.

Traditionally, our volunteers signed up to work at the food bank on a scheduled day each week, week in and week out, and often, year after year.  Barbara found creative ways to schedule groups of colleagues who wanted to volunteer together, and to harness the outpouring of offers to help.

The fire also brought in far more people who wanted to host private fundraisers or food drives.  With some days delivering as many as a dozen offers to our email inbox or our Google Voice message system, it was obvious that it would take yet more time and effort to make sure that people heard back from us.  Few things would be worse than greeting an offer of help with silence.

Diane Malcolm, a volunteer at Trinity Cathedral’s bookstore and relative newcomer to town, offered to take charge of food drive coordination. Diane’s diligent follow-up, on top of Barbara’s steady support, made it possible for us to engage a whole new group of volunteers.

Even though late November and early December found RCFB very much in the throes of food drive coordination, securing permits for construction, and media interest, we stopped to take time to thank the volunteers who had hung in there with us through difficult conditions since the fire.  Each of our regular volunteers was presented with a porcelain ornament designed by Daisy Sugiyama of Boniform Design, bearing a photo of Mac & Cheese and the sentiment, “comfort and joy.”

Comfort and joy is exactly what our volunteers brought to River City Food Bank’s many desperate clients throughout the especially difficult fall of 2010.

Next: Longing for the mundane

Posted by @philanthrophile, also known as Betsy Stone

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