Mitch - 2,325 miles, 102 hours
I know we got the chance to catch up informally over the phone not so long ago, but our talk actually inspired me to hunker down and formalize some thoughts about my first month of volunteer work. I did just that and I can't think of a better person to share it with than you mi amigo.
Working with the Food Bank of the Rockies as my first organization was a dream come true for many reasons. I knew I wanted to start with a bigger organization that relied heavily on volunteers and had been established for quite some time, but FBR even surprised me with how much of a well oiled machine they were. During my time I got to volunteer in each area of the food bank, and no matter where I was placed, there was a well organized team that did a great job making sure what tasks for the day could be completed given the number of volunteers they had available. Each volunteer hour every day was taken advantage of to the fullest, and I was always very impressed at how consistent the volunteer numbers were. As I mentioned they have things down to a science there, so I guess it is also no surprise that they put back nearly 97% of all their financials into their programs. I can strongly say that money or time spent with FBR is going to a great cause and will be very well utilized.
Working in each area of the food bank over the course of my month there meant I got great exposure to each program they manage. Their main line of work is partnering with local agencies to distribute food, but they also have some smaller programs that help feed more populations with a higher risk of food insecurity, such as children and the elderly. One of my major goals of my sabbatical was to have an opportunity to engage more with the community members receiving aid from programs like these. Given FBR works more closely with partner agencies and not so much those in need, I wasn't able to work closely with many individuals supported by these programs, but I think that was actually a nice way to start the sabbatical. It reminded me just how much work can be, and needs to, done behind the scenes in order to help others. Of course directly working with populations in need is vitally important as well and I aim to accomplish that in my upcoming volunteer efforts.
My last takeaway from the food bank, was in understanding the difference between addressing immediate needs versus long term needs. In many conversations I had with employees at FBR, we often discussed the food bank's efforts to "feed the line" versus "shorten the line." FBR is always looking to feed the line, which addresses immediate hunger needs. This requires serious amounts of funding, resources, and volunteer hours, and without it, there are so many in the greater Denver area that would go days or weeks without a meal. Shortening the line comes mainly in the form of solving systemic issues with why hunger exists in the first place, and is mainly addressed through policy changes, perhaps not even related directly to food and hunger, but other social or economical policies.
While I think at the end of the day, shortening the line is what will lead to ending hunger in certain areas of the country, it has been made very clear to me during my time at FBR, that addressing immediate concerns and feeding the line will continue to be incredibly important to those struggling with hunger each day. Any bit of time or money that anyone can spare towards the daily fight against hunger, can and does help, especially when organizations like FBR do such a great job operationally.
I'm sure we'll discuss this more at length some time, but for now I'll leave it at that. It's off to Salt Lake City to work more closely with individuals affected by homelessness, but first, it's time to ride. Talk to ya and see you soon.