If you ever come to visit us at Harvesters, whether at our Kansas City location or the Kansas Distribution Center, you’ll run into volunteers. Lots of volunteers. Some are with corporate or school groups, some are friends or families, and some are individuals. Volunteers are truly the lifeblood of everything we do at Harvesters and are the reason we can keep feeding as many neighbors as we do day after day.
“Volunteers serve a vital role in Harvesters’ mission,” says Paula Pratt, Director of Community Engagement. “They give of their time and talent and greatly assist us in providing food assistance to as many as 226,000 different people every month. From helping to sort and repackage food to serving at mobile distributions and food pantries, or even serving in a Harvesters Ambassador role, they are key to helping Harvesters stretch its resources in feeding people in our communities.”
Last year, Harvesters’ volunteers gave 133,179 hours of service. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of 64 full-time employees! What we save on labor costs we can spend on making sure our programs are as good as they can be, our staff is taken care of, and that we are feeding as many of our neighbors as we can.
Volunteering at Harvesters is both fun and easy. It doesn’t take previous experience, and we make sure to train everyone involved to carry out their specific task. This makes it a particularly good opportunity for groups of mixed ages, including children 8 and older. Parents who want to teach their children the value of volunteering often find it difficult to find an opportunity that is both instructive and where their young ones can be legitimately helpful. Well, at Harvesters, they are! We have plenty of tasks that are easy for children to complete but save us a lot of time and effort as we get food ready to distribute to the community.
Harvesters is blessed not only to have volunteers that come in for special events or a one-time affair, but also a good deal of regulars. A lot of these folks have been volunteering with us for years, including Mark and Mary Lippe, who have been gracing our warehouse since 2006.
“For both of us, knowing that the need for food is so real in Kansas City and the surrounding area is what keeps us coming back,” they say. “There are people who must decide if they are going to pay their utilities, pay for prescriptions, or buy food. It is hard for children to learn if their tummies are empty.”
Some of our volunteers have also experienced food insecurity first-hand and consider volunteering at Harvesters a way to pay it forward from the times in which they received assistance. Volunteers like Bren, who can often be seen in our warehouse with a smile on her face and some epic dance moves once the music gets turned on.
“I really don’t call it work, because it’s more like you’re here with your family,” she says. “By the end of the day, they’ll be my brothers and sisters. That’s the way to really work.”
So, no matter your age or skill level, and whether it’s a few-hour commitment or you get hooked and keep coming back again and again, there’s always room for you to volunteer at Harvesters!
Click here for a full list of volunteer opportunities with Harvesters.