It’s no big secret nonprofit service organizations like food banks and senior centers are always in constant need of resources and volunteers, and the only way these organizations can serve their communities is by having a steady stream of both.
So when the Enumclaw Food Bank and Senior Center suddenly found themselves operating with skeleton crews, they started calling on the community to help them out.
Vicky Stratton, who helps run the food bank off Cole Street, said she currently has three volunteers that help her and her 81-year-old husband run their operation.
Part of the reason her team is so small, she said, is because the economy is improving.
“I’ve lost three volunteers in the last two months to jobs,” Stratton said. “It’s great. I like seeing more people go back to work. But it really makes it hard on us.”
The crew of five is currently doing the work of nine during the food bank’s open hours on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to noon and on Mondays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., plus the before and after hours work of picking up and dropping off food, checking expiration dates and organizing the donations.
“Most people don’t know how hard we work,” Stratton said, describing how she is putting in 50 hours of work into the food per week to make up for the small number of volunteers.
Opportunities at the food bank include driving to Seattle and other locations to pick up and load food into a vehicle and drive it back to Enumclaw. Stratton said the food bank occasionally has two drivers, but when its down to one, that means only one volunteer is shifting nearly 1,000 pounds of food for each delivery by themselves.
The food bank also requires volunteers to check expiration dates and condition of donations, plus to help drivers unload their haul and stock shelves. The food bank sees approximately 40 to 45 thousand pounds of food go through their doors each month, Stratton said, and moving it all is something she and her husband can no longer do alone.
Even tech help is hard to come by, despite the large number of technology-oriented teenagers who go to school just down the street. Computer volunteers help collect data on how many pounds of food come through the food bank and how many individuals and families are served, as well as other tasks.
Jobyna Nickum has also seen the improved economy affecting the numbers of volunteers that come through her organization’s doors.
Nickum said the organization used to run on stay-at-home moms and “young” seniors, or seniors who are newly retired.
“Now, young moms are working. There is not a pool of young stay-at-home moms,” she said. “Young seniors may want to volunteer, but at the same time they may be travelling or getting second jobs, because they financially need that second job.”
What the senior center has left, then, is a group of older seniors who volunteer so they can see the senior center continue to serve the aging baby-boomer generation.
More than anything, Nickum is looking for a volunteer coordinator. “People who want to volunteer don’t know who to turn to, or they hear of something but it’s not what they want,” she said.
The volunteer coordinator would not only work with the senior center, but also communicate with other non-profit volunteer organizations to keep track of what organization needs which kind of help. These needs would then be matched with individuals and families who want to volunteer.
Other large volunteer opportunities at the senior center include organizing and teaching skills and hobby classes and helping with the Neighbors Feeding Neighbors hot meal program, which delivers hot meals to home-bound seniors in the Enumclaw area. Smaller opportunities include answering phones, computer work and kitchen work.