I started a new gig this morning. Volunteering at a local food shelf somewhere in the 612. Because of client confidentiality, I am a little restricted in what I can say, and I can't take any pictures, so I am borrowing the photo for this post.
Although this was only my first day, it was a positive experience. I started out organizing and re-stocking the provisions, facing the shelves like a grocery store so the customers could see what was in stock and have easier access to it. Once I had the shelves ship-shape, they moved me over to the check-in station, where I learned to take I.D.'s, get people registered and give them their slips. Once they were done getting what they needed, I signed them back out. It's a SQL database, much like databases I have used before, so the computer part was easy once I had the sets down. In case you are wondering if this service is "necessary", about half of my customers today told me that this as emergency pick up.
After an hour of sign-in duty, we got a large produce delivery. By then it was pretty slow (most people come to the food shelf early), so putting produce away became an all-hands job and I ended up kind of supervising the perishable produce handling. We got that done, but the produce needs a sort yet - some of the stuff comes in mixed boxes so it's hard for people to see what is available. I'd like to get the produce arranged next time I go back if it's not done already.
This was my first food shelf experience, per se. I did a Loaves-and-Fishes type effort in Connecticut, picking up either bread or produce (I did both) from grocery stores in Guilford, Branford and East Haven for delivery at a drop location in New Haven. That was a lot less formal - no background check, no supervision, no nothing. This food shelf I am currently working at is a much tighter ship - better inventory, better customer service and actual records of what comes in, goes out and how many people get support.
I got a nice volunteer buzz from the morning's work and felt like I helped some people and advanced the mission of the food shelf. I think this kind of volunteer work is important to building community; I am probably a little late in starting here, but I think it will be a good gig.
Plus, the boss told me I could bring my bike inside rather than locking up outside. Sweet.