Spirit of Caring Awards to honor volunteer contributions
May 1, 2018 - Volunteerism is an important value in our society. When people are engaged in their community, there are benefits to the volunteer, to the people and organizations that they serve and, for the community as a whole. Volunteers help agencies provide the wide range of services that are available in our community. Nonprofit agencies and community organizations would not be able to provide the breadth and depth of services they offer if they didn’t involve volunteers.
Bring fresh perspectives
Help agencies reach new audiences and markets
Extend staffing capacity
Are ambassadors and advocates for the causes in which they are involved
Create an environment of people that care about their communities
Donate money at a higher rate than non-volunteers
Our primary mission is to provide a free meal each weekday, and that certainly does depend on many volunteers preparing and serving food as well as cleaning, stocking and other related activities. Each month volunteers spend about 700 hours working with our two part time kitchen staff to prepare and serve over 2,500 meals. That’s about 3.5 hours of volunteer time for each hour of paid kitchen staff time.
People eat lunch with us for many different reasons: some people have no money for food and would go hungry if we didn’t provide lunch; others have very limited money for food and by having lunch with us they can use those funds to by healthier food and more food; some live alone and find it hard to cook and eat alone each day and they come to lunch as much for the company as for the healthy and delicious food. All are made welcome and enjoy a good lunch thanks to dozens of volunteers who join us every weekday to prepare and serve lunch as well as to clean up afterward.
In addition to providing a free meal each weekday, we feel we provide a meaningful and engaging opportunity for volunteers in our community. Our volunteers come from very different places: we have college and high school students participating in community service learning or experiential learning, retired people staying engaged in the community, adults with disabilities participating in rehabilitation or day programs, people meeting requirements of the corrections or justice systems, people new to the area and looking to make connections, people looking to expand their resume with more skills and employees of local businesses and institutions giving back to the community. While all of these people come to the Berkshire Food Project to help us prepare lunch each day, they are all accomplishing various goals of their own as well. Volunteering works best when both the volunteer and the organization are providing something and receiving something.
Occasionally a group will ask to volunteer during a time when we are not open for lunch – we’ve had sports teams from local colleges come in over the weekend to clean and paint our kitchen, for example. We have volunteers who take our laundry and do it every week – hundreds of aprons and towels! We have a volunteer who takes our recycling to the transfer station every week. Right now dozens of volunteers are donating the time and resources to create 300 bowls for our Empty Bowl event while other volunteers designed and printed the posters and tickets for the event. Our volunteers come from many different places and find many different ways to support us.
Kim McMann, Executive Director
Berkshire Food Project