AJ Food Bank: Volunteers are Essential!

Volunteering improves not only the communities in which one serves, but also the life of the individual who is providing help to the community. Numerous studies say personal gains for the volunteer are more far reaching than previously understood. In a word, it can be summed up as “happiness” as it expands physical activity, builds friendships, reduces isolation and improve one’s overall sense of worth and well-being.

Volunteers enable the Apache Junction Food Bank to operate within its financial limits, while serving the year-round needs of over 14,000 qualified East Valley families in need. “Our nonprofit runs on a lean budget,” explained Food Bank Executive Director Jo Hurns. “We must have volunteers, or qualified families in the East Valley will go hungry.”

The food bank’s need for volunteers is greater than ever. “We always need volunteers, but this is a considerable recruitment call right now. Although some people are returning for the fall, through attrition and the fact we added a senior food program with the holiday season upon us, this is a plea to others to join us.”

She said on average, families visit the Food Bank three times a year, and over half have a full-time adult working in the home. But rent, utility bills, medical costs and other expenses leave cupboards bare.

It takes one person only about 30 minutes to prepare five days of food for a qualified East Valley resident. Most volunteers work one shift a week – that amounts to about 3-4 hours of donated time weekly.

Most think of volunteers as retirees looking for something to do, but volunteers at the Apache Junction Food Bank vary greatly in age, ethnicity, backgrounds, employment status and religious beliefs, she explained. Volunteers can include employee groups from local businesses such as Fry’s, Walmart or Wells Fargo; or members of a local service organization, all volunteering for a few hours representing their association.

Teens, families, husband-and-wife teams and, lately, even some of the clients the food bank serves have stepped up to help in the 4,000-square-foot facility.

There are barriers that can prevent some people from working, but socio-economic status, skills, biases and even some health issues are overcome at the Food Bank.

There are a variety of positions needed to cover 11 shifts each week. People are needed six mornings a week from 8:30 to noon and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. in the warehouse. Though most of the warehouse work requires walking and standing (being able to lift 25 pounds is a bonus), there are positions where sorting food at a table or simply retrieving shopping carts from clients are all that is required.

We also need office workers, afternoons from 1:45 to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. This entails sitting at a computer station using a simple cloud-based computer program to check-in clients. Good customer service skills are needed from all the volunteers.

“Volunteers bring a wide range of contributions to the Food Bank,” said President of the Board Robert Mohle, who has a high regard for volunteers and wants them to be as involved as they desire. “It could be seasoned skills or raw energy. It could be fund-raising power or field expertise. They could be one-off contributions or on-going commitments.

“Regardless of someone’s particular contribution or the duration of a volunteer’s presence, the purpose and passion for the mission integrates into their daily lives.”

For more information about the volunteer opportunities, visit www.ajfoodbank.org and click the VOLUNTEER button or email info@ajfoodbank.org.

Photo above: Longtime volunteer and team leader for two shifts a week at the Food Bank, Robyn Malgieri.

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