Looking for a way to fill some free time and give back to the community? Volunteering is a vital lifeline for many of the city’s most valued organizations.
“Volunteers are the heart of our organization,” says Beth Stewart, volunteer services manager at Food & Friends. “We cannot do what we do without them. We’re a staff of only about 54, and we send 3,000 meals out the door every single day.”
Food & Friends relies on volunteers to help prepare, sort, package, and deliver food to people with life-threatening or long-term illnesses.
While help is necessary year-round, the organization is in particular need of volunteers to assist in delivering special Thanksgiving dinners to clients prior to and on the morning of the holiday.
“Volunteers are the primary people preparing and packaging those meals under the direction of our chef team,” says Stewart. “We can’t physically do the work without their support.”
Similarly, the Capital Area Food Bank and DC Central Kitchen are always looking for people to sort and package food, which they provide to nonprofit partners, homeless shelters, and schools.
Both allow volunteers to sign up for shifts on their respective websites, making it easy to fit volunteering into your schedule.
If you want to specifically help LGBTQ organizations, there’s an abundance of options. SMYAL’s Sharifa Love-Schnur says the LGBTQ youth advocacy organization has opportunities ranging from helping at events to serving as a youth mentor, which requires additional training and a background check.
SMYAL typically holds quarterly orientations for volunteers, with its next one in 2019. But the organization is currently seeking one-time volunteers for an upcoming panel discussion on youth homelessness on Nov. 28 at the Verizon Technology and Policy Center.
The DC Center also holds quarterly orientations for people who want to work as support staff. The Center also holds a monthly volunteer night on the first Monday of every month, and has a list of other one-time opportunities on its website.
“We use volunteers for almost anything you can imagine,” says The Center’s executive director, David Mariner. “We also have a number of group volunteer opportunities. So if you pull together a group from your church, sports team, or friends, and want to make dinner for homeless youth, or make dinner for the Center’s asylum seekers group, or hang out with our seniors, you can get involved in those activities as well.”
For more information on the above organizations, visit Food & Friends at foodandfriends.org, the Capital Area Food Bank at capitalareafoodbank.org, the DC Central Kitchen at dccentralkitchen.org, SMYAL at smyal.org, and the DC Center at thedccenter.org.