Brief Interviews with Volunteer Coordinators: St. James Food Pantry Edition

Volunteers at St. James Food Pantry

A group of volunteers from Cars.com helps out at St. James Food Pantry.

Editor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.

Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.

Interview with Ted Kain, Social Care Volunteer Coordinator at the St. James Food Pantry.

Adam: Why is fighting hunger important to you?

Ted: There is such a great need in our community, let alone our world, for people to be fed. There are so many myths about hunger that it’s been incredibly educational for me to learn how many people are hungry in our neighborhood. St. James Food Pantry is blessed to provide this service in order to try to help our community.

Adam: How has VolunteerMatch helped you engage volunteers to fight hunger?

Ted: VolunteerMatch has been very helpful in promoting our service. We’ve been fortunate to meet individuals and groups who want to contribute to our mission. VolunteerMatch has provided another outlet for St. James Food Pantry to invite our neighbors to give back and help those in need. The work of volunteers helps us exponentially – we’re extremely grateful and inspired by the volunteers who donate their time and talent with us.

Adam: What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? What’s the most rewarding?

Ted: It can be difficult to hear stories of difficult circumstances and situations our clients may be facing. There’s only so much we can provide to our clients, but it’s hard not to be able to do even more after meeting clients each day who struggle to get by.

The most rewarding aspect of my job is receiving a genuine thank you or smile after providing our service. Our clients understand the effort put forth by our volunteers and staff to make our food pantry a success. To bring happiness, comfort and respect through simple acts of kindness brightens my day tremendously.

Adam: What do you love about your work?

Ted: I love working with staff and volunteers who care passionately and seriously about the service we provide. I’m exposed to great generosity every day. The contributions people make through time, talent, donations and respect is humbling to lay witness to. I’m thankful to work with those who give in any way they can. Some people may not have a lot to give, but they give what they’re able to. I find that to be an inspiration for how to live life daily. One doesn’t have to possess the most resources to make an incredible impact on a community.

Brief Interviews with Volunteer Coordinators: Citymeals-on-Wheels Edition

A Citymeals-on-Wheels volunteer in action.

A Citymeals-on-Wheels volunteer in action.

Editor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.

Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.

Interview with Vivienne O’Neill, Citymeals Director of Volunteer Programs.

Adam: Why is fighting hunger important to you?

Vivienne: Fighting hunger is important to me because it’s a problem that causes such unimaginable human suffering. Over 800 million people throughout the world are hungry. Currently, it is the largest global health crisis. Hunger not only happens around the world, but also right in our own backyard.

Adam: How does your organization fight hunger?

Vivienne: Citymeals fights hunger by providing meals to frail, homebound elderly. We have a team of dedicated staff and volunteers that deliver meals and provide nourishment for our neighbors in New York City.

Adam: You’ve been particularly successful at recruiting volunteers for your cause – do you have any suggestions for fellow organizations looking to emulate your success?

Vivienne: I dedicate a lot of my success to communicating well. I let people know when I need help. You also have to be in the loop about what’s going on out there, so it’s important to focus on communicating in both directions.

Adam: How has VolunteerMatch helped you engage volunteers to fight hunger?

Vivienne: VolunteerMatch has provided referrals for volunteers that deliver meals and prevent hunger from striking New York City’s seniors.

Adam: How do you show your appreciation for your volunteers?

Vivienne: Although we have over 12,200 volunteers, we try to say thank you in a personalized way. Whether it be sending a card for their wedding anniversary or reaching out by phone to check on them when they’re under the weather, we try to stay as connected as possible to our volunteers’ lives to let them know how much we value their work.

Adam: What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? The most rewarding?

Vivienne: The most challenging aspect of my role is finding work for all of our volunteers; I hate turning them away. The most rewarding aspect of my role is seeing the impact that our volunteers have on our meal recipients and vice versa. It’s very humbling to see how everybody benefits from the work we do.

Adam: If you could give one piece of advice to a fellow organization hoping to join the fight against hunger, what would you say?

Vivienne: Roll up your sleeves and get ready to work. Fighting hunger helps build a safer and more secure world, but it’s not an easy task.

Brief Interviews with Volunteer Coordinators: West Valley Community Services Edition

Volunteers fighting hunger with West Valley Community ServicesEditor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.

Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.

Interview with Danielle Lynch, Volunteer Program Manager at West Valley Community Services

Adam: You’ve been particularly successful at recruiting volunteers for your cause – do you have any suggestions for fellow organizations looking to emulate your success?

Danielle: My best advice would be to know what your volunteer opportunities are and who to reach out to for each volunteer need. At WVCS, we have many opportunities, all very diverse.

From weekly recurring receptionist and food pantry positions to one-time special event and group projects, we have a wide range of positions suitable to different members of our community, whether that decision is based on an individual’s interests, schedules, or skills. It is important to know what each position requires so that you can convey those responsibilities and effectively target and reach out to different members of your community.

Adam: How has VolunteerMatch helped you engage volunteers to fight hunger?

Danielle: VolunteerMatch has been a crucial part of our volunteer engagement strategy. Being able to recruit for each individual position through VolunteerMatch’s large community of givers has been enormously successful.

We are able to differentiate between each volunteer need, identifying key responsibilities and requirements, and potential volunteers are able to filter postings specific to their interests and needs. Having the opportunity to be a part of the VolunteerMatch community has enlarged our volunteer base, and helped us recruit for passionate and skilled volunteers who make WVCS so successful!

Adam: How do you show your appreciation for your volunteers?

Danielle: We are so thankful and grateful for our amazing volunteers at WVCS. Over 500 volunteers participate in WVCS activities every year – clocking in an astounding 16,000 hours – enabling us to provide crucial services to those in need in our community.

To show our faithful volunteers how grateful we are for everything they do, we tell them just that every day. In addition, thank you emails and letters, as well as recognition in our monthly Volunteer Newsletter, are important reminders of just how appreciative we are for their selfless acts. We also host an annual Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony, in which we invite all our volunteers for a dinner full of games, prizes, awards, and personal commendations from staff.

Volunteering at WVCS is not easy, from picking up hundreds of pounds of food at 8am in the pouring rain to translating between clients and case managers during meetings, being a WVCS volunteer is not a walk in the park. It is important for us to make sure that every single one of our volunteers feels our appreciation and gratitude for all the work they do to serve those in need in our community.

Adam: What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? The most rewarding?

Danielle: The most challenging aspect of my role at WVCS is managing our large volunteer force. The sheer volume of our volunteers, over 125 every week, warrants applause for our amazing community. Daily scheduling is a large task, but we are never lacking in interested volunteers, a testament to our giving community and the help of VolunteerMatch!

Another challenge of ours is getting supplies for our group volunteers to complete big projects. Although we are always in need, and our community is always reaching out to us wanting to help, it has been difficult to secure supplies such as paint, paint brushes, rakes, etc., for our volunteers to complete the work needed.

The most rewarding part of my job is interacting with our amazing volunteers. These individuals selflessly give us not only their time and energy, but their spirit. Speaking with our volunteers and watching them interact with our clients, it is impossible to miss their passion for our cause and their desire to help those in need. It is a heartwarming thing to witness, and makes me that much more thrilled to come to work each day.

Brief Interviews with Volunteer Coordinators: Feeding America San Diego Edition

Feeding America San DiegoEditor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.

Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.

Interview with Alicia Saake, Volunteer Programs Manager at Feeding America San Diego

Adam: Why is fighting hunger important to you?

Alicia: I believe that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life and that having access to nutritious food is a basic building block to successfully doing so. 1 in 6 people in America (and 1 in 5 here in San Diego County) are food insecure, meaning they don’t have reliable access to food. With the abundance of food available and the large amounts that are wasted, hunger is an issue that we can and should work to end in our community.

Adam: How does your organization fight hunger?

Alicia: Feeding America San Diego (FASD) works to fight hunger at a local (county) and regional level, with the support of Feeding America at the national level and over 160 partner agencies at the local (community) level.

We bring in food from local manufacturers, local farmers and grocery stores to our Distribution Center where volunteers sort, glean, pack, and check food for safety. The food is then distributed to those who need it though our programs, which focus on Feeding Kids, Feeding Families, and Feeding Forces in an innovative, nutrition based method.

Adam: How do you show your appreciation for your volunteers?

Alicia: We always say thank you in a meaningful way unique to each volunteer, every time they volunteer. Each year, we also send out personalized holiday cards to recognize the commitment they have made throughout the year and wish them well in the coming year.

Additionally, we provide name tags and t-shirts to volunteers after they have met certain hour requirements, and have been lucky to receive Padres tickets to distribute to our most dedicated volunteers. Long term volunteers are also taken on field trips to volunteer at partner agencies or program sites so they can see the complete circle of the work they do at our Distribution Center.

As far as formal recognition events, we host a yearly recognition event in April and a potlatch mixer in November.

Adam: What do you love about your work?

Alicia: I love getting to work daily with volunteers and staff who are just as passionate about our mission as I am. I am in a unique position to not only further inspire volunteers to do more to support our mission in the community, but am also able to help volunteers develop personally and professionally through mutually beneficial volunteer position placements within our organization.

It is such a wonderful feeling to step back and know that an event is running smoothly and efficiently because the right volunteers are in the right positions. Each successful volunteer event means more food to those who need it, and it is an honor to know that because of the 8,000 volunteers I had the pleasure of working with last year we were able to get 21.5 million pounds of food to San Diegans who need it.

Brief Interviews with Volunteer Coordinators: YouGiveGoods Edition

YouGiveGoodsEditor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.

Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.

Interview with Jenna-Lee Akbar, Account Executive and Drive Coordinator at YouGiveGoods

Adam: You’ve been particularly successful recruiting volunteers for your cause – do you have any suggestions for fellow organizations looking to emulate your success?

Jenna-Lee: Leverage technology via social media and platforms such as VolunteerMatch to get your message out. Provide people with clear information on how they can help.

Adam: How has VolunteerMatch helped you engage volunteers to fight hunger?

Jenna-Lee: VolunteerMatch has been a great way for us to connect with people and organizations interested in running or participating in food drives. We had a substantial amount of engagement from the postings we have placed on VolunteerMatch. They are easy to set up and monitor, which gives us the ability to learn and build upon the feedback we receive.

Adam: What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? The most rewarding?

Jenna-Lee: Many people who first visit our site assume that we facilitate raising money to help the hungry. So it’s a bit of a challenge for us to help them understand that people are actually buying the specific food they want to donate to help feed someone.

On the other hand, it’s very rewarding to see how people react when the light bulb goes on and they understand that we make it as easy to donate food as it is to donate money. People get pretty jazzed up about that.

Adam: What do you love about your work?

Jenna-Lee: It’s awesome to know that everyday people and organizations are using our website to help in the fight against hunger. We get great feedback all the time about how much people value and appreciate how our website facilitates their ability to help out.

Adam: If you could give one piece of advice to a fellow organization hoping to join the fight against hunger, what would you say?

Jenna-Lee: The fight is a marathon, not a sprint. Think about how you can make a positive impact over the long term.