Publisher’s Note: Volunteer Missoula is partnering with Make It Missoula to help the community learn more about the great work of local nonprofits as well as spread the word about exciting volunteer opportunities available to Missoulians. Every month we will feature a blog about an “Organization of the Month” chosen from our list of website users.
By Will Schultz
vol·un·teer: (noun) A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or under take a task.
While this definition says what a volunteer is, it fails to communicate what a volunteer experiences. Recently, I worked a shift at Missoula Food Bank. Located at 219 S 3rd St W, the Missoula Food Bank dedicates it’s time to fighting hunger in the city of Missoula. Opening in 1982 the Missoula Food Bank was originally located at a donated basement, there they gathered food and delivered it to those in need. Since then the organization has sprouted above ground and has even reached areas such as Lolo and Potomac with satellite distribution centers. These small warehouses have helped spread the Missoula Food Bank’s mission of allowing them to feed more families than ever before.
It was eight in the morning when I checked my email, looking through the inbox I found the message that I had been waiting for, it was from Krystin Gehrich the Volunteer Coordinator for the Missoula Food Bank, letting me know of times that I could come in and lend a hand. My deadline for this blog was quickly approaching so I jumped at the opportunity. The time available was 8 A.M. to 1 P.M. Wednesday Nov-25. After that they would be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday and any hope of making my deadline would be lost. I had homework that needed doing and coffee that needed brewing so I let Krystin know that I would arrive around 10 or 10:30 ready to go. This gave me a little time to get my work done and grab a bite to eat and soon I found myself sitting in my car parked in front of the food bank. I had never worked in a food bank before, nor have I ever been in one, my imagination had taken hold and I was wondering at the possibilities of the day. I looked at my car’s clock, it was 10:15 A.M., it was show time.
As I walked in I had no idea where to go so I headed towards the back where it looked like people were working. I was ready to explain that I was in contact with Krystin and that I had not just wondered in off the streets. I found an office and inside was Krystin. I introduced myself and then she explained I’d have four main tasks: sorting, stocking, bagging, and cleaning all ordered by priority on a green laminated paper, hung where everyone could see.
She showed me the sorting area where there were big cardboard bins each with a label; Dry, Veggies, Fruit, Tuna, Peanut Butter, Other. Then Krystin introduced me to Cece, a woman who was sorting contents from Rosauers paper bags into a shopping cart. Cece is a force. She is the sort of person who tells you to do something and you do it. She was also kind and understanding. She showed me her system: grab a bag and sort it in the cart, then move your piles to the right bin. At first I wondered why we were not just sorting directly into the bins but, as I looked around, I figured out why. This system kept us out of the way most of the time. Cece was a sorting machine, moving quickly and decisively–probably a result of volunteering at the Food Bank for over 25 years. My time with Cece was brief but informative, she soon left to go to the Library to continue her volunteer work there.
The feeling of loss without my teacher was short lived for I soon met Kaitlyn and Elaine. My fellow sorters, Kaitlyn was a young girl with dark hair, and Elaine was older with gray hair and a personality that energizes those around her. Kaitlyn was a senior at the University about to get her anthropology degree while Elaine’s son, Aaron, worked as the Executive Director for Missoula Food bank. You could see how proud she was of her son and she was thrilled to be there. We talked while we sorted and I noticed that they were all talking about Greg. “Greg likes this there”, “Greg will have more of these”, and “Greg will know what to do.” Soon my curiosity spiked and I was about to ask the question “Who is Greg?” when a tall balding man with the air of authority walked in. It was Greg, and I never got a chance to talk much to Greg, he was everywhere at once. Greg swept, moved boxes, stocked and even sorted a little, all in the time it took me to load one bag of food.
As time went on we eventually managed to get the sorting done, this may sound like a simple task but imagine a small mountain of Rosauers paper bags that are about as tall as you and as wide as a small car. It was hard work, but I never felt so good in my life. After that I was moved to the front to help bag with a girl named Margret. Margret is tall and slim, with dark hair and she is easy to talk to. She gave me the rundown on how to bag like a veteran when in fact it was only her second day. Margret was a journalism student writing a story about the Food Bank as well. We laughed at how we were there for the same reason and talked about our families and the holidays. Up front is where I met a lot of the customers, great people who have fallen on bad times and need a hand. I helped people out to their cars with their food, and realized that all terrain shopping carts need to be invented.
I was thanked so much that it kept a smile on my face for the rest of the day. I looked at the clock and it was 1:00 P.M. but it felt like 11:00 A.M. at the latest. It was time to get to my own family. I thanked Krystin for all of her help and in turn, she thanked me for mine. She gave me a volunteer application and I look forward to going back. Never before have I met so many nice people in one place and felt so good about my work.
If you are interested in getting involved with the Missoula Food Bank as a volunteer there are plenty of ways to lend a hand, weather it is sorting or donating. If you do not have time to volunteer, but would like to know more, then feel free to stop in and take a look around. It is an amazing operation and the volunteers will gladly answer any questions that you may have. For more information, contact Krystin Gehrich, the volunteer coordinator, at (406) 549-0543 or at email@example.com. You can also view their page on volunteermissoula.org or visit the Missoula Food Bank facebook page. You can be a part of their mission to distribute emergency food to people and strive to reduce hunger.
My name is Will Schultz and I am a student at the University of Montana. As of now I am a senior in the Management of Information Systems program and am looking to graduate at the end of May. I am originally from Butte and have been living in Missoula for the last few years. I love the sense of community that Missoula has created and am hoping to become more involved. I enjoy working on computers and I get a great sense of accomplishment that my skills are being used to help others!
If you like this article then volunteering may be for you. It is a great way to meet people and is more rewarding than my command of the English language can describe. Visit volunteermissoula.org to find ways to lend a hand near you.
Mission Statement: Children’s Museum Missoula and Families First empower families with parent education and learning through play.
History: Children’s Museum Missoula (originally established as Families First) began supporting families in western Montana in 1994. The initial focus of the organization was to provide parenting information and support to anyone raising children through Parenting Programs. In 2002, they opened the children’s museum. The museum increases our ability to support families and parents with fun, hands-on, educational exhibits and programs that promote learning through play. In keeping with their mission & history, the Museum provides an environment which fosters positive parenting through shared discovery, interaction and play.
Ages 1-100 $4.25/person
Under age 1 is FREE!
FREE Admission for members
FREE Admission from 5pm to 7pm on First Fridays
*Group visit rates are available
Volunteer Missoula is a complete, streamlined volunteer management service for volunteers, nonprofits and businesses in Missoula County. We are web-based nonprofit organization operating under the fiscal sponsorship of United Way of Missoula County. Volunteer Missoula was created and is currently operated by Missoula community members dedicated to promoting volunteerism as a solution to meeting community needs. Volunteer Missoula is partnering with Make It Missoula to help the community learn more about the great work of local nonprofits as well as spread the word about exciting volunteer opportunities available to Missoulians.
Every month we will feature a blog about an “Organization of the Month” chosen from our list of website users. Our mission is to promote and expand volunteerism as a viable means to fill service gaps in Missoula by connecting volunteers, nonprofits, businesses and individuals in need of service through an interactive and comprehensive website. Volunteer Missoula’s website connects volunteers with Missoula-based nonprofit organizations. We make volunteering easy. For more information about our program or how to become an Organization of the Month, please visit VolunteerMissoula.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Step Up. Help Out.