Extending the hand of friendship

by

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?”

Rev. Martin Luther King

“May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.”

Thomas Jefferson

The first day I came to the food hamper program it was a warm summer morning.  I walked into the warehouse and was immediately impressed at the number of people working away at many different tasks.  I was there to volunteer, and immediately, someone asked how they could help me.

It has been several years since that day, most of them now, as a paid staff person, but volunteers continue to remain the foundation that our program rests on.  Every aspect of our work exists because volunteers are there to make it happen.One thing you will notice after reading through a few of the profiles we posted last week is that many of our volunteers are impressed by the level of need in our community.  Working with us is an eye opening experience.  I know that this was the case with me.  Every day a large number of families turn to us for help.  Each one of them has a story and while the paths that brought them to our door are often very different, they all share one need: food.

Each minute that we’re open volunteers are working to meet that need; packing hampers, stocking shelves, sorting donations, sweeping, stacking boxes, answering questions, looking for a colouring book in the donation bin for a young child in the lobby or sharing a family recipe for delicious baked plantains.

Matt Galbraith, our volunteer coordinator, summarized it best, when he said:

“Our volunteers look beyond themselves and see that there are others in the community that need help. Even if they themselves need some support they are more than willing to help others.  They are compassionate hard workers who take pride in what they do. They realize that their time serving others is important, and that what they do here makes a big difference.”

His (and our) biggest challenge is to show how much we appreciate their work.  On the slower days, we can take a little more time and connect with them personally, but when it’s busy, it’s hard to stay ahead of the hampers slips waiting to be packed.  Thankfully, the very hands on, one on one nature of the work, gives our patrons an opportunity to thank them for us.  As you may have noticed, many of the volunteers point out in the profiles we have posted so far, that they really enjoy the chance to see the difference they are making in people’s lives first hand.  They have a direct connection to the people they are helping.

So far this year 98 people have volunteered with us, accounting for over 3100 hours of effort. Last year, 157 people shared some of their time with us, contributing over 12,000 hours in total.  That’s over 500 days worth of hours!

And that doesn’t include the time donors spend getting food ready for us, the countless people in the community who organize food drives for us, collect funds, drive a neighbour or relative in need of assistance to our program or any number of small and big jobs that keep us going and help the people we serve.

This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week.  Today, is the first post in a series that will highlight the many different ways we all work together to achieve our common goals and say thank you to the many volunteers who graciously share some of their time with us each day.

So thank you volunteers one and all. From all of us who work for the House of Friendship we are privileged to learn from you and share your joy in serving others. Thank you.

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