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Food bank in need of volunteers
SNOHOMISH - With a large number of its volunteers going back to school or work at summer’s end, the Snohomish Food Bank is in need of volunteers.
There are about 14 programs at the Snohomish Food Bank, executive director Elizabeth Grant said last week, but only six of them are fully manned and directed. Grant is looking for people to head those programs.
The pet food program currently has no director, Grant said.
“I really, really need a volunteer to oversee our pet food program,” Grant said. “Being able to offer cat and dog food is really important, but (the program) is falling to the wayside.”
When school started back up after Labor Day, about 15 volunteers left the food bank. There are a lot of students or school employees, such as teachers or bus drivers, who pitch in during the summer months.
Megan Kuehl is the volunteer coordinator and became the second and only other paid staff member besides Grant on May 1.
“I started volunteering in February, and I loved it so much that I begged them to hire me,” Kuehl said.
Kuehl stressed the need for volunteers who are capable of working with the food bank’s clients and can treat them with dignity and respect.
“Coming in to the food bank is a very humbling experience,” Kuehl said. “The last thing someone needs when they’re coming in for help with food is for someone to tell them to get a job.”
In addition to needing volunteer program directors, there are several other places where volunteers with less time to commit are needed as well, Grant said.
Volunteers with a wide variety of skills are needed, so there’s something for everyone.
The food bank needs drivers who have a valid Washington state driver’s license and are strong enough to haul heavy bags of food. Drivers go back and forth between grocery stores and the food bank. The time commitment for drivers is about three morning hours, Grant said.
Another need for the food bank is people who can help Grant serve the families who come in to shop for their food.
The food bank creates a shopping experience similar to a regular grocery store.
When clients come in to do their shopping, Grant said, they first grab a shopping cart just as if they were at Safeway or QFC. There are about 10 stations to wind through, each manned by volunteers.
The client chooses items from each station and the volunteer bags up the selections and places them in their shopping cart.
Volunteer assistant shoppers are needed Tuesdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Snohomish Food Bank is so successful in reaching all the people that it does because of the generosity of volunteers, Grant said.
“Our food bank is one of the best in the region and it’s due to the continuing generosity of the community,” Grant said. “It’s because of the people who are volunteers who give up their time and expertise that make the food bank work so nicely.”
The Snohomish Food Bank averages about 135 volunteers per month in the summer, Grant said. Volunteers for June, July and August 2013 donated more than 5,700 hours, Grant said.
In 2012, the food bank volunteers donated more than 23,000 hours.
“Our volunteer staff is larger by two to three times than our counterparts in other parts of the county,” Grant said.
The big staff helps Grant not only run the food bank smoothly, but it helps create the most welcoming environment possible for the clients. Additionally, other programs such as the school supply and backpack program and the Tree of Giving at Christmas time would never be able to happen without the enormous help of volunteers, Grant said.
Grant said her volunteers are “amazing.”
“We wanted to have it be a nice experience for our clients to come in,” Grant said.
“I love this community,” she said. “I get to see people at their best. You get people coming in and saying: What can I do. It’s just amazing.”
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