October 24, 2015
“Volunteering in America, a report published by the Corporation for National and Community Service, estimates that on average in 2011, more than 64.3 million Americans volunteering at least once providing over 8 billion hours of service (Worth, 2014)”. No matter your passion, if you have the desire to volunteer, there is something out there for you. My volunteer opportunities will focus on Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and Nashville Children’s Theater.
Second Harvest Food Bank is one of the nation’s largest food banks. Their mission is too simply “feed hungry people and work to solve hunger issues in their community (secondharvestmidtn.org)”. Second Harvest Food Bank is located in Metro Center at 331 Great Circle Road in Nashville, Tennessee. I first became familiar with Second Harvest while researching volunteer opportunities that were accessible for my entire family to participate in. Second Harvest is always in need of volunteers who can help sort food. The hours for volunteering are also very family friendly (offering nights and weekend opportunities: Monday – Wednesday 5:30 pm– 8:00 pm, Tuesday and Thursday 8:30 am – 11:30 am Saturday 8:30 am – 11:30 am and 1:00 – 4:00 pm.). Food sorting volunteers do not need to attend a training session in order to volunteer. After a brief orientation, not only will you know more about the organization and their mission, you will also have all the tools you need to start working right away. Training may be required for specialized administrative or volunteer leader roles. Signing up to volunteer was a simple as going to the Second Harvest website, choosing a time and date to volunteer and clicking a button. You will be contracted via email within 24 hours with your confirmation.
Food sorting duties include sorting salvaged edible and non-edible food products and placing them in appropriate bins or boxes. Checking for signs of contamination, rodent or insect infestation, unknown spills on the product and/or rotten smells. Volunteers also pack backpacks for their Backpack program. There are no special requirements for this job, except that volunteers must be 12 years old or older unless accompanied by an adult.
This volunteer opportunity is a great way to give back to the community. “Second Harvest has a network of over 450 Partner Agencies working together to feed hungry men, women and children throughout our 46-county service area. Second Harvest collects, sorts and distributes food and personal care products to over 450 partner agencies throughout 46 Middle and West Tennessee counties (secondharvestmidtn.org)”. Their partner agencies include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, foster care facilities, senior centers, and group homes and youth enrichment programs. It is estimated that close to 1 million Tennesseans face hunger every day. Hunger impacts the lives of 1 in every 6 Americans. It is not just in your rural or low income areas, it is in big cities and suburban communities, hunger is everywhere.
By volunteering in the food distribution center, you are volunteering at the heart of the organization. Food is donated from various locations and it has to be sorted and stocked so that it can be sent out all over our community. What surprised me the most was learning that this unbelievably large warehouse of food would last less than three weeks if no new donations where provided. Also, the sheer number of backpacks given to children so they will not go hungry on weekends and over breaks. Second Harvest serves more than 5000 children a week! Through this volunteer opportunity I was able to glean insight to the daily operations of this very vital service.
I would recommend this opportunity to anyone looking to make a difference in their community. As we enter the holiday season, it is often a time to reflect on how much one has been given and a good opportunity to pay it forward.
Next volunteer opportunity is with Habitat for Humanity (Williamson- Maury). While I personally have never volunteered with this organization before, I have known people who have. “Seeking to put Gods love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope (hfhwm.org)”. This is their mission and they accomplish this by working with low-income families and donors to build simple, decent homes and sell them with no profit and no interest.
There are many Habitat chapters throughout the United States. For this blog, I will be using the Williamson – Maury location. The Hammond House is the house that is currently under construction. It is located 1811 Wendy Blvd in Columbia, Tennessee. It is slated to be dedicated Oct 10, 2015. The Williamson –Maury chapter builds 10-12 new homes per year. The volunteer coordinator is Emma Couch and her contact information is readily available on their website.
Habitat for Humanity draws various types of volunteers, it may be the “spot volunteer who participates casually, usually on one occasion, to the episodic volunteer who may participate on multiple occasions or for brief periods of time ( Worth, 2014)”, i.e. a volunteer who works daily to complete one home. Habitat is able to build these houses due to the generosity of volunteers. It is through their love labor, these houses are able to be built at such a low cost. ‘The service of volunteers is of enormous economic importance to nonprofit organizations and to society. Independent sector estimates that each hour of volunteer time contributed to nonprofits in 2011 was worth $21.71; that is an average of what organizations would have needed to pay to obtain similar services from paid staff (Worth, 2014)”.
There are many different types of volunteer opportunities. If swinging a hammer is not your thing, there are opportunities to work in their Restore shop where you can unload merchandise, assist with donation pick up, aid with deconstruction projects, clean and prepare merchandise for sell, help maintain a clean store, or provided friendly customer service. There are also clerical or meal sponsorship opportunities.
While it is not required that you have construction experience, it is required that you be at least 16 years old and at least 18 to work with power tools. Tools are provided and you must wear close toed shoes and have a signed waiver.
I am not known around my house as a handyman, but I could easily see myself being able to successfully volunteer with this organization. “Those who continue to serve are those who find the nature of the work itself rewarding, and that volunteers value opportunities to learn new skills through their voluntary service (Worth, 2014)”.
My last volunteer opportunity is with the Nashville Children’s Theater. “Nashville Children’s Theater is a professional theater company providing the children, families and educators of Middle Tennessee with extraordinary shared theatrical experiences that inspire imagination, develop creativity and build community in partnership with our volunteer and donors”(nct.org). Growing up in Franklin, one of my fondest memories from elementary school were our field trips the Children’s Theater. Now, my son is able to experience the same joy as he attends theses magical performances. The Children’s Theater entertains over 80,000 children, families and educators each year. Founded in 1931 by the Junior League of Nashville and it is one of the county’s oldest children’s theaters. “Relationships undertaken primarily to advance the mission are more likely to be successful then those undertaken sole for financial reasons or as a response to pressures from funders (Worth, 2104)”. Clearly, NCT’s mission is to educate children and inspire creativity which they have been successful at for over 83 years.
I was unaware of all the volunteers it takes to run this timeless theater. Upcoming opportunities include assisting with Front – of -House duties for its upcoming performances of Charlotte’s Web (which runs through early December). Duties include scanning tickets, distributing programs, helping patrons find their seats, and assisting with children’s activities in the lobby. There a numerous times available for volunteering, from afternoons, evenings and weekends. There are no specials skills required, just a love of for children and creativity. Working in the theater gives one an up close look at the day to day operations and just how much it takes finically and creatively to make one of these astonishing tales come to life.
The three volunteer opportunities described above would offer wonderful experiences for anyone looking for a place to give back to the community. Volunteers are a tremendous resource for nonprofit organizations. Without volunteers nonprofits would not be able to carry out their missions and services that are vital to the communities in which we live.
Habitat for Humanity, (2015) Retrieved from http://www.hfhwm.org/about-us/faqs/
Nashville Children’s Theater, (2015) Retrieved from www. nashvillechildrenstheatre.org
Second Harvest Food Bank, (2015) Retrieved from http://secondharvestmidtn.org/?gclid=CIGLgq-L5MgCFZUlgQodr6YKGQ
Worth, M.J. (2014). Nonprofit Management: Principles and Practice (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.