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Advertising and a new building have helped increase the number of volunteers at Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland.
That means more food going out the door to help people and a possible increase in the number of volunteer work nights from one each week to two or three.
Before the organization opened its volunteer center in June, volunteers weren’t able to work some days because machinery was rolling around or there wasn’t enough space. When volunteers worked there, much of the regular operation at the site had to be put on hold, Programs Director Milissa French said.
Additionally, it was time-consuming and a headache to set up and tear down assembly lines that volunteers use to compile boxes of food. The volunteer center gives some room for the lines to be left up between volunteer shifts, she said.
Now, there’s not a day that the organization doesn’t have volunteers.
Programs Assistant Vicki Rust said more people are scheduling volunteer sessions on a regular basis as well.
Groups should call the volunteer center to schedule volunteer sessions so the organization can be prepared, she said.
French said it’s a good thing that the number of volunteers is increasing because the economy caused an increase in the number of people in need, and the need has not decreased.
“The more we can keep on our list for pantries to order, the more food goes out, the better,” she said.
French said the new building is one of the biggest reasons for the increase in volunteers because it’s helping people notice the organization and think about volunteering.
Increasing the number of volunteer nights is possible but it require flexible hours from staff members, she said.
Executive Director Gary Miles said partnering with the national organization Feeding America also helped attract new volunteers because it offers national promotional advertising that the local organization never could have afforded.
French said volunteers are important because the organization otherwise would need twice the staff that it has.
“There have been times I’ve thought we’re going to outgrow this building,” she said.
French said volunteers also appreciate the center because it gives them a comfortable, safe place to give back to the community.
About 30 people jostled around each other Tuesday in two assembly lines putting together elements for the organization’s backpack program.
The previously quiet warehouse stacked to the ceiling with bags and boxes of food for Kentuckians in need came alive with the rusting of grocery bags and the bustling of volunteers as they trickled in after school and work.
Marc Fox, a sixth-grader at James T. Alton Middle School, said while involved in community service with Boy Scout Troop 668 was required for a merit badge, he learned how many people in the area need help.
“I think it’s great that we can help others that aren’t as lucky as us so they can be happier,” he said.
Jimmy King, a sophomore at North Hardin High School, said the community service his Boy Scout troop performs about once each week is important.
“If you don’t have a community that works for each other, then you don’t have a strong community,” he said.
Tammy Bryan of Elizabethtown brought almost her whole family to take part in the community service opportunity scheduled by her workplace.
It was her first time volunteering for the organization and she wanted her family to experience giving back to the community.
“What else am I going to do with my time when I’m doing something really productive?” she asked. “I think it’s a really good learning lesson.”
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.