The holidays make everyone want to volunteer. Though there’s no data on the seasonality of volunteering in general, most nonprofits will tell you that they’re inundated by people looking to volunteer during November and December
Nonprofits that help provide one of the most basic human needs – food – are often the first place people look to volunteer. And while volunteers are very much needed during the holidays, that need doesn’t stop after January 1.
Come the first of the year, though, volunteering runs hot and cold. Thad Rosenfeld of Meals on Wheels Central Texas said, “We do see an uptick in volunteerism after the first of the year as people follow through on their New Year’s resolutions.” While Paul Gaither of Central Texas Food Bank said, “Unfortunately, we see a sharp drop in the number of volunteers after the holidays. But hunger is a year-round issue, so we’ll be doing as many things as we can think of to recruit during that time.”
To help keep their volunteer rosters full, consider signing up now, while the mood strike you, for volunteer shifts in 2019. Chances are, you’ll get your pick of shifts. And it’s a great way to start the new year with the spirit of this season.
MEALS ON WHEEL CENTRAL TEXAS
Rosenfeld says they’re definitely in need of volunteer more over the holiday season. “This is the time of year when many of our volunteers are unable to deliver their routes because they are on vacation or doing other holiday-related activities. For that reason, we are always looking for substitute volunteers during this time of year. Those are folks we call when a regularly-scheduled volunteer can’t deliver meals that day. If we call a substitute and their schedule won’t allow them to deliver that day, we call the next substitute on the list.”
If you’ve never volunteered with Meals on Wheels before, know that you must go through an hour-long orientation and a criminal background check before delivering meals, and provide proof of auto insurance. Meals on Wheels has many open routes for any volunteers who would like to commit to delivering once a week on a regular basis. They also encourage folks to form delivery teams whereby people can take turns driving the route every week. Rosenfeld adds that volunteers must be 18 years of age, but kids are welcome to come along. “We always encourage our volunteers who have children to take them on the route. Our homebound clients love seeing children!”
Can’t volunteer over your lunch hour? How about volunteering to help feed seniors’ pets? Rosenfeld suggest volunteers sign up for the PALS (Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors) program. “The program provides free pet food (delivered on the weekends to the clients by volunteers) and free basic veterinary care (generously provided by local veterinarians),” he said. “We use volunteers to transport clients’ pets to and from vet appointments.”
CENTRAL TEXAS FOOD BANK
Like Meals on Wheels, the Food Bank has a diverse offering of volunteer opportunities, perfect for individuals and groups. There are opportunities in the warehouse, the garden (weather permitting), the kitchen, the mobile food pantries, and in their offices performing administrative duties.
While volunteer shifts are fairly full between now and New Years with lots of large groups, Paul Gaither of Central Texas Food Banks says folks are more than welcome to check for available shifts here.
If you want to do something besides sort and distribute food, kitchen volunteer leaders (not ordinary volunteers) do have to obtain food manager certification (not just handler certification). Gaither added, “I would say some of our admin work is also advanced – like migrating data, cleaning it up and creating documentation of processes. Those are all things volunteers have done over the years.”
KEEP AUSTIN FED
In our research on this food-recovery nonprofit, we learned that it could easily recover more food and get it to hungry people if it had more volunteers. Because the food is fresh and perishable, a team of 170 volunteers goes out and recovers it and redistributes it to nonprofits to serve to their clients just about every year.
Lisa Barden, program director, said, “There’s definitely more food to be rescued, and some of it we have to turn away. And there are more people out there whom we could serve.”
You have to get a food handler’s certificate, go through some training, and probably have car insurance, but from there you can pick a route and sign up.