Did you know that the Mission provided over 63,000 people with groceries and served over 90,000 meals in 2021? Or that we distributed over 2.5 million pounds of food to 30+ partners so that groceries could be available in local communities? Or that over 70 men and 50 women and children sought help through the Changed Life Recovery Program or Faith House? Or that Rescued Treasures provided clothing and other necessary items to those in need through over 1,800 visits to our “store”?
Additionally, through the Outreach Program we distributed hundreds of backpacks full of school supplies, arranged for dozens of haircuts for our residents, provided personal care items and infant supplies regularly, and coordinated drives to provide others with Christmas gifts, canned goods, coats, and more.
None of these services would have been possible apart from the dedicated efforts of our volunteers. “We have an average of 35-40 volunteers each day who perform the work that is done at the Mission,” says Volunteer Coordinator Carolyn Chandler. “In 2021, we had over 700 individual volunteers who invested over 13,000 service hours!”
The men and women who volunteer at the Mission support our community services, the Changed Life Recovery Program, and Faith House. “Each of these areas serves a specific area of need in our community and we have volunteers in each of these core areas,” says Carolyn. Volunteers contribute to these ministries in myriad ways.
First, our community services include outreach, food preparation and distribution, clothing donation processing, and more. “For example, if you have ever visited or called the Mission, you probably spoke to one or our many receptionists. These men and women work to make sure that everyone who comes through our doors or calls our office feels welcome and respected,” explains Carolyn. “These volunteers help with phone calls, administrative tasks, and numerous duties that minister to guests who come here every day.”
Serving in our George L. Shields Bread of Life Kitchen or in our Food Distribution Center also falls under the category of community services. On a typical day, we prepare and serve breakfast and lunch to approximately 300 people, in addition to providing warm meals to local shelters. Our doors are open every day for individuals who need a hot meal for breakfast or lunch. Hospitality is at the center of this service, and volunteers serve behind the scenes as well as welcome guests to the dining hall.
Volunteers also make a big impact in the Food Distribution Center as they help to sort and package food for guests from our community. “They also assist the guests as they come in to pick up groceries by staging the supplies on tables that are set up near the Center, and they help carry food boxes and bags to cars of those that need assistance,” Carolyn says.
Second, the Changed Life Recovery Program welcomes volunteers as class leaders, Learning Center assistants, speakers, and worship leaders for chapel. “Volunteers are very important to the CLRP,” says Director Carlton Hill. “The CLRP depends on volunteers for teaching and assisting us with the residents’ overall recovery effort, in addition to bringing them encouragement, hope, and motivation alongside Jake [CLRP Case Manager] and me. We are very appreciative of these volunteers!”
And third, volunteers at Faith House assist at the receptionist’s desk, help with meal ministry, childcare, and cleaning, and offer yoga and other unique classes that appeal to the ladies. Local garden clubs also volunteer their time seasonally, adding festive touches to the landscape such as scarecrows sitting on haybales in autumn and nutcrackers flanking the front door during Christmas. During the rest of the year, these volunteer gardeners plant flowers and tidy the mulch beds at both Faith House and our main campus.
Over 700 volunteers and 13,000 volunteer service hours are impressive numbers! “But these numbers don’t begin to tell the whole story of the impact volunteers have at the Mission and in the community,” emphasizes Carolyn. “It’s one thing to give a person a hot meal or a warm coat, but through volunteers at the Mission we touch lives in countless ways. Volunteers get to know the folks we serve; they know their names and their stories. They ask about the struggles people are facing and many times pray with them. Volunteers help to restore self-respect and dignity, and to reestablish hope for many that have given up.”
Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me,” (Matthew 25:40). This reminds us that God’s presence is everywhere. It might be hard to sense in an unfamiliar environment or when we encounter a stranger in need. But we can be assured that He is with us and invites us to share His love with the world. Volunteering at the Mission is a great way to do that!
God’s love is audacious. We are called to love by sharing our resources, putting others ahead of ourselves, and loving people we might not even know or like. When we love others like this, we can grow and offer hope to others. And that’s how lives are changed now and for eternity.
Here’s a special message for you from Carolyn:
As the volunteer coordinator for many years, it has been my privilege to see not only how volunteers serve and change lives in the community, but also to see how volunteers’ lives are impacted and changed. When you step outside the world you know to share with others in a place of hardship, you begin to understand how the choice to serve can set in motion a change that will affect individuals, families, communities, and the world we share.
If you would like to be a part of this world-changing experience, contact the volunteer coordinators at the Mission or visit the website to start your volunteer journey.
Carolyn Chandler or Brenda Bell