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A Thank You to Volunteers from Kali Hamilton, Philabundance Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by Kali Hamilton on April 28th, 2017

For National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Kali Hamilton, Philabudance’s volunteer coordinator, shares some of her favorite memories and the perks of working so closely with our volunteers and hunger heroes.

Question: Introduce yourself!

Answer: I am Philabundance’s Volunteer Coordinator and have been for over two years! During National Volunteer Appreciation Week this year I wanted to personally thank the thousands of amazing volunteers we have the pleasure of working with. 

Q: Can you explain a little more about your position?

A: My main role as volunteer coordinator is to manage most of the day to day administration of shift scheduling and communication. If you’ve ever emailed or called the volunteer department, there’s a good chance we have spoken to each other. 

I am constantly in awe of the volume of people who want to volunteer with Philabundance and give back.  This is one of my favorite parts of the job, getting to work with and meet so many people who care about their community. We live in a world where it’s easy to be ambivalent about social issues, but the sheer number of volunteers I hear from keeps me optimistic. 

Q: Any other favorite part of your position? 

A: My “other favorite” part of my position (there are too many to pick favorites!) is the daily orientations before the Hunger Relief Center shifts. I know some of our regulars may not enjoy hearing the orientation more than a couple of times, but I love getting to know the volunteers and making sure they understand the impact of their time.

No matter which shift a volunteer registers for or how many times they come, their time and what they do is valuable. For example, we recently had a corporate group who volunteers annually return to the Hunger Relief Center. While most of the group remembered sorting food drive donations, a handful of volunteers recalled being placed on warehouse cleaning duty. Cleaning tasks play an active role in keeping our doors open and food flowing. Last year, we passed our AIB insurance inspection with flying colors and it’s important that volunteers know that everything they do is beneficial and furthers the mission!

Q: What’s the best part of working with volunteers?

A: My role has given me the opportunity to meet volunteers throughout all of our various sites and projects, including our dedicated volunteers at Fresh for All, KidsBites, Fare & Square and the Berks warehouse. We have such a diverse volunteer pool which really makes our shifts accessible to just about everyone; I love watching volunteers of all ages, background and abilities come together over the course of a shift.

Some of our volunteers are also former or current Philabundance clients, or are motivated by personal family histories of poverty and food insecurity. Others are fortunate enough to have never experienced hardship at all and volunteer in acknowledgment of their privileges. This mix of volunteers is so important because volunteers are our representatives in the community and because of this we are able to reach so many more clients, donors and advocates through word of mouth.

Overall our volunteers’ friendliness, willingness to learn about the issues, and engagement with our staff, especially those with a good sense of humor, brighten all of our days.

Q: You mentioned a good sense of humor. Any particular memories of when volunteers had to make use of it? 

A: I try to never abuse my power but last year I really couldn’t resist doing something for the poor volunteers who registered on April Fools’ Day. I told the morning shift they’d be the first to pilot a butcher program where they’d be given cleavers and aprons and help us down-size bulk meat donations. Then I told the afternoon shift they’d be filleting fish. The look of horror on some of the volunteer faces was absolutely priceless. But there were definitely some faces that were disappointed when I told them they’d actually just be sorting food drive instead.

Q: Any advice you can offer to new volunteers?

A: Wear layers! No matter the site, make sure you’re wearing comfortable, closed-toe shoes and have layers you can take on and off. I’m always impressed by the volunteers who come prepared for all temperatures/working conditions. I once had a volunteer bring a ski suit that she zipped right into when I announced the project of the day was frozen meat.

Q: If you could ask volunteers to do one thing right now, what would it be?

A: Take 2-3 minutes out of your day right now and share your volunteer experience with someone. Whether it’s talking to a friend or a neighbor or sharing on social media, your volunteer story might reach those who are struggling and not talking about it and open a dialogue on how to use Philabundance as a resource!

Q: Any last thoughts?

A: This will be my last Nation al Volunteer Appreciation Week with Philabundance. I’ll be leaving in May to do a cross-country road trip and then head to Boston for grad school in the fall. I can’t say thank you enough to all the wonderful volunteers I’ve had the opportunity to get to know over the past few years. I appreciate all that you do and know volunteers will continue to play a vital role in this organization for many years to come.

 

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