Last year alone, Feeding America Southwest Virginia distributed more than 21 million pounds of food to the hungry.
That’s a daunting figure, but something we could never accomplish without the help of our volunteers. Through a network of nearly 130 partner agencies we are able to strengthen our community by providing services otherwise unavailable.
As the branch Volunteer Coordinator I have the pleasure of working first-hand with the individuals and groups that generously offer their time volunteering. On average we have more than 100 volunteers at our facility each month. Numerous opportunities are available to our volunteers to give each a position that utilizes his or her abilities. Volunteers coordinate food drives to increase donations by reaching out to their community. When food donations arrive at our warehouse, volunteers help sort through the donations. In the Second Harvest soup kitchen, volunteers prepare meals for the nearly 1,000 meals per week that we serve every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Our most recent project available to volunteers is helping in an on-site garden. Feeding America has been working on gathering donations to construct a teaching garden that will provide fresh produce for our soup kitchen. Second Harvest operates solely on donated food. Often this requires the kitchen to use canned items with limited access to fresh produce. Our new garden is located 100 feet from the kitchen doors. Now the kitchen will have access to fresh vegetables and herbs, allowing our kitchen volunteers to cook nutritionally balanced meals. The garden will also be used as a teaching tool to demonstrate how someone can grow their own vegetables in limited space.
Throughout the last couple months, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Berry Home Center, Home Depot, Target, and Wal Mart have provided monetary and material donations in support of increasing food access and education. With the donated materials, our volunteers supplied the physical labor to make the garden a reality.
On Aug. 26, twenty-one Emory & Henry students who participated in the College’s annual Service Plunge, an event to acquaint first-year students to service opportunities in the community, spent three hours volunteering at Feeding America. Eight of those students diligently worked outside digging new raised garden beds. Despite the shoveling, leveling, and dirt pouring, they remained enthusiastic. They reminded me how much I enjoy working with volunteers because their hard work and positive attitudes are contagious. Within three hours the students had constructed the beginning framework necessary for the garden beds.
While one group worked outside in the garden, one group sorted through donated items in our salvage room. The items they sorted were ready to hand over to an agency to distribute in the community. The third group of students prepared a meal in our soup kitchen to give to their fellow students. They witnessed first-hand the difficulties of preparing large quantities of food in a small kitchen and with limited donated items. At the end of the work day all three groups reconvened and shared a meal together. We greatly appreciate the Emory & Henry students who participated in this event.
Emory & Henry students have graciously volunteered their time on many other occasions as well. Currently, six Bonner Scholars are planning new food drives and assisting our warehouse staff. Special thanks go to Johnny Blackwell and Donte Peoples who volunteered during our large work day on Oct. 3. Johnny and Donte worked with volunteers from Home Depot, Alpha Natural Resources, and Target to complete the construction of the garden. Overall our volunteers built six raised beds, two small hoop houses, a retaining wall to deter erosion, and a small foot bridge.
We always welcome new volunteers. Our garden, soup kitchen, and warehouse are always in need of eager hands to help us eliminate hunger in our community. Groups and individuals are welcome! We are also looking for people who would like to run food drives, especially as the holidays are nearing.
If you are interested in volunteering, contact Megan Pintus at firstname.lastname@example.org or (276) 628-9266.
If you are interested in donating you can bring items to our location at 21452 Gravel Lake Rd, Abingdon, VA.