Bart Brown: Volunteers key to mission

April 3, 2017 in Bart's Hope Notes Harvest Time Newsletter

View More:’s April, and at Ozarks Food Harvest, that means we’re celebrating volunteers in honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Month.

We simply would not be able to provide 15 million meals each year without the hard work of thousands of volunteers who donate their time.

Their dedication is inspiring to all of us who work at The Food Bank.

Many of you have volunteered with us before, but if you haven’t, I’d encourage you to give it a try.

Volunteers have a variety of jobs at Ozarks Food Harvest. They sort through donated produce, clean eggs, help with member pantry distributions and pack bags of food for kids and boxes of food for seniors, just to name a few of the tasks.

Last fiscal year, 3,900 volunteers gave more than 30,600 hours of their time to process 4.8 million pounds of donations. It’s amazing when you think about this generosity. Without volunteers, we would not be able to meet the needs of the 261,000 people who come to Ozarks Food Harvest’s network of pantries and programs each year for help with food.

Volunteers give of their time for a variety of reasons. Some are retired and enjoy having something to do that makes a difference.

Like Arlene Eichler who wanted something meaningful to fill her days after retiring.

She volunteers multiple times a week at our Volunteer Center and member pantries.

“Between Ozarks Food Harvest and the pantry, it’s given me real purpose. And interacting with people in need has been a real eye-opening experience,” she said. “This has really filled a void for me, I just really feel like I am doing something worthwhile, and I’ve met some really nice people.”

Some are college kids who need to fulfill a class requirement, but end up developing a passion for giving back. Like Amanda Kirkpatrick, a senior at Missouri State University studying elementary education.

“Volunteering here is going to impact me as a teacher because I am going to be more focused on my students’ home lives,” she said. “If you are hungry, you are not going to be able to focus, and I want to know the home lives of each of my students and realize if they need that extra snack to keep them focused.”

And some are working adults who feel compelled to use their free time to benefit others. Like husband and wife Mike and Cindy McKnelly.

“You aren’t doing it for yourself, it’s something that you are doing for another purpose,” Mike said. “I do it because it’s fun and it helps people and we have a good time.”

Even though volunteers find us in different times of their lives and with different goals in mind, the volunteers who give back at Ozarks Food Harvest have something in common – they are Hunger Heroes.

It’s a fun phrase that we use to describe our donors, but we don’t use it lightly. People who selflessly give of their time to Ozarks Food Harvest are truly heroes.

All of us are so grateful for you, our volunteers and donors. We could not solve hunger in the Ozarks without you.

Bart Brown is the president/CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest.


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