The Arizona Republic – Your Turn
Everyone is familiar with the annual tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Often, we focus on things we’re going to do to improve ourselves. “I’m going to lose weight.” “I’m going to exercise more.” “I’m going to stop smoking.”
What if we were to add resolutions to our list that would have a positive impact on our communities? Imagine the possibilities if hundreds, even thousands, of people adopted a New Year’s resolution to do good? To give of themselves through time and energy spent volunteering to improve the lives of their neighbors in need?
United Food Bank depends on volunteers to get 300,000 pounds of food a week to the people in our East Valley and Eastern Arizona communities who need it most. We recorded more than 25,000 volunteer hours in the 2018/2019 fiscal year. We could not accomplish much of anything without these generous hours of service.
Each week, we need as many as 210 volunteers to serve 2-hour shifts at our Javelina volunteer center. What do they do? On Mondays and Tuesdays, volunteers sort food drive donations! Volunteers check the quality of food and expiration dates, then package them up to be sent to our 200+ partner agencies. These agencies rely on the work of our volunteers to receive boxes of a well-balanced, broad variety of foods to provide to the individuals and families in crisis they serve.
Wednesday and Thursdays, our volunteers form an assembly line to pack Emergency Food Bags. Each bag contains enough food to feed a family of four for about a week. United Food Bank has launched the initiative to increase the bags from 12,000 bags a month to 27,000 bags each month. Due to this increase, we have opened up evening shifts and accept volunteers from ages 5 years and up. These evening shifts are on Monday and Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. To serve United Food Bank’s families most directly and personally, the best day to volunteer is on Fridays. Each week, United Food Bank’s food co-operative program, called Help Yourself, helps ensure that families can stretch their grocery dollars well beyond typical grocery store purchases. Volunteers assist more than 450 families from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. each Friday, by setting up the Help Yourself grocery store and handing out fresh produce, milk, eggs. Each client leaves with a whole shopping cart of food for just $20!
None of this can happen without volunteers from all walks of life. Families are welcome to bring their children with them to learn about the impact of service right alongside them. We welcome professionals with busy day jobs by offer the evening volunteer shifts noted above. Retirees form the backbone of our daytime shifts. The work isn’t hard, but it is vitally important.
Resolutions aren’t just for individuals; they can also be made by businesses. If you are an employer, consider bringing a mobile volunteer event right to your workplace! We can create an impactful food-packing experience almost any day, anytime and anywhere in the Valley. It’s a great opportunity for staff or conference team building. The usual length of a mobile event is one hour, with packing goals based on the number of volunteers who will participate. United Food Bank takes care of all the planning and logistics, and provides the items to be packed, bags and on-site staffing.
If volunteering isn’t already part of your routine and you’re feeling an urge to do something that will make a difference for others, make “I’m going to volunteer at United Food Bank” your 2020 New Year’s resolution. Visit unitedfoodbank.org/volunteer to learn how you can resolve to make a difference in 2020!
Grace Bishara is the Corporate Engagement and Volunteerism Manager at United Food Bank coordinating unique large team building events.