Celebrating National Volunteer Week (April 23-29, 2017)
Written on Monday, April 24, 2017 at 10:46 am by Sonya D. Springfield in City Orchard, Community, volunteers
When the doors of Bread for the City are open, they are matched by the hearts of thousands of generous volunteers who serve our two centers and orchard, and support a host of special projects each year.
During the cold, “slow” months, nearly 400 volunteer slots are filled in our food pantries and clothing room, our medical and legal clinics, and our social services programs. When things warm up, hundreds more bring their smiles and support to service opportunities at our orchard, farmers’ market, Sunday produce sort, and two rooftop gardens.
In 1974, a single volunteer helped us begin. With a small $5,000 gift, a nurse, and donated space, Bread for the City’s founders were ready to open a medical clinic. Legally however, they could not open unless a licensed physician agreed to oversee the operation…and what physician would work without pay?
When Dr. Jack Bresette finally agreed to the role, he came “reluctantly and mostly out of guilt,” but volunteering left him “changed…healed…peaceful…humbled.” The service of that first physician—and the others who soon joined him—marked the beginning of a movement which, 43 years later, has resulted in Bread for the City being able to offer a wealth of high-quality, free services to D.C.’s low-income community.
Today, Bread for the City has a staff of over 100, but the service of volunteers (which supports the needs of 8,000 to 10,000 clients each month) continues to ensure the work of each department can be successful. In some cases, it ensures that some programs can even exist:
- Two Fridays a month, about 4,000 pounds of produce has to be sorted into individual bags over a two-hour span for 150-200 community members visiting Bread for the City’s Farmers Market. The bulk of the work is executed by volunteers.
- Here at Bread, we’re proud of our three full-time physicians and dentist. Our medical services however, would not be complete without the help of the more than a dozen doctors—many of whom are specialists in various fields—who provide their services for free through our medical clinic.
- Only one full-time and one part-time staff member serve Bread for the City’s 3-acre orchard day to day. The remainder of the planting, weeding, harvesting, and general tending-to of crops is executed by volunteers.
- Donations to our clothing room come in every single day to help accommodate the nearly 1,000 visits the room sees every month. Who would sort the donations and replenish the floor stock if there were no volunteers?
It’s easy to go on. We have a retired attorney who gives Bread for the City 64 hours of his time every single month…and has been doing so for years. Thanks, Bruce!
A volunteer at our Southeast Center has committed a decade to helping keep our clients informed through bulletin board and calendar updates. The staff of a particular federal agency comes to package bread for our food pantry every month. And we have half a dozen service corps volunteers who spend a year with us performing a wide variety of services that help keep us moving forward.
In fact, we estimate that the dollar value of volunteer services to Bread for the City is over a half a million a year! But more importantly, this service ensures many more of our friends and neighbors here in Washington, D.C. draw a few steps further away from the obstacles associated with living in poverty.
We appreciate our volunteers’ commitment. We appreciate their time. We’re grateful for the way they help us accomplish our mission. We would not be Bread for the City without them.
Of course, Bread is just one of many nonprofits who benefit from volunteer support. The proposed budget of the current administration eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This disinvestment in American communities may seem “penny wise” on the surface, but overall, it is both “pound foolish” (and “people invisible,” to add a new twist to a familiar phrase). The Hill reports that “Americans see nearly four times the return in higher earnings, increased output, and other community-wide benefits” for every federal dollar invested in national service. It summarizes by saying, “For every dollar we give CNCS, it gives us back $1.25.”
That’s why we have to resist the current administration’s effort to abolish the Corporation for National and Community Service. AmeriCorps service members led by the CNCS are among the many who work diligently to address the needs of Americans facing inequity and the challenges of poverty.
Volunteers represent the best of America, and I hope each person reading this will commit to always being one.
Sign up to serve at www.breadforthecity.org/volunt