Rural Community Builder Name: Volunteers with Project Blessing Food Pantry

Community: Douglas County, OR

Role: Volunteers at Project Blessing Food Pantry

What is one word or phrase that describes this person as an RCB: These volunteers work tirelessly behind the scenes even during a pandemic.

Recognized by: Susan Martin from Reedsport, OR

Tell us a bit about what you appreciate about them as an RCB:

1-1/2 year Volunteer

“It’s so nice to be recognized outside of our community.”

Stepped up to cover two volunteers who had spouses with under-lying medical conditions and could not volunteer. Original volunteer position greeter, information disbursement, maintain the flow of clients in the pantry. They are great at making people at ease and building relationships.

Stepped up to work every day we were open. Ensured clients understood the new distribution methods and helped ease them into the dramatic changes. They helped maintain our reputation and built confidence in our clients in our ability to meet their needs.

They are willing to learn and change their preconceived notions. They are a great asset to the pantry.

6-year Volunteer

“I knew it was risky, but people need food. There was no way I wouldn’t help.”

This volunteer works a full-time job and works one day a week at the pantry. After being furloughed due to the pandemic, they were at the pantry for every shift. Until I required masks. Due to underlying medical conditions, they could no longer help at the pantry during pantry hours. They found a way to help after hours.

This volunteer is a great reminder of the risk we all took in the early months when we didn’t know much about this virus. We didn’t know for certain, but it could be we were risking our lives. This volunteer made me realize that our volunteers are so committed to lifting our community that they would give all to ensure they were fed.

3-year Volunteer

“Love the water bottle! But, you didn’t need to do that. I’m happy to help.”

This volunteer is one of our “invisible” volunteers. What makes a volunteer “invisible” is they work behind the scenes, not in the pantry during pantry hours. We have a small army of invisible volunteers. They did our all financials for 2 years and now do our receivables and payables. They have an infant born with a severe heart defect, a child with autism, and two other children. They continued to volunteer for us despite working full-time taking her children to work with her.

This volunteer volunteers with the elementary school as well as the pantry. They want to set a standard for their family and create a community where children thrive. I suppose when you have four children you deal with pandemics with a hefty dose of realism. Their family was a wonderful example of overcoming the day-to-day challenges one challenge at a time.

New COVID-19 Volunteer

“I’m happy to have an opportunity to help my community when they need it most.”

This volunteer helped with one of the new distribution methods for two months. They recently moved to the valley to be near their children.

They came to volunteer at a critical time and were very impactful the short time they were there. They had volunteered at events before but had never made a weekly commitment to volunteer. They enjoyed their time so much at our pantry, they will look for another organization to volunteer for in their new location.

I’m extremely sad to lose this volunteer. They came when we needed their skill set the most and were a fantastic volunteer. They shared they have always been hesitant to make a commitment to regularly volunteer, but their concern of the pandemic’s impact made them go outside I’m glad their experience changed them and that they will be an asset to another organization. This experience has reminded me of the far reach we have when we provide a welcoming and meaningful volunteer experience for volunteers.

Reflections from Susan

I had some insightful conversations with my volunteers. I was able to reinforce my commitment to them, and they were able to express their feelings about volunteering at the pantry. During the conversations, we laughed, reminisced, problem solved, cry, and connected on a deeper level. I have a newfound appreciation for all my volunteers. I’m grateful for the opportunity the RCB swag gave.