We could not do what we do without the 130+ caring Calgarians who give their time every day. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization.
Volunteers in the Phone Room are very close, most having been there for more than 10 years. The room has been decorated to keep the mood light and friendly; stuffed animals line the top of the desks and candy bowls are peppered all around.
These volunteers are asking clients difficult questions and we make sure that everyone keeps compassion and confidentiality at the fore front of every call. Although each call is different, volunteers ask the same questions to determine if callers qualify for a hamper. They ask personal questions about income, basic expenses, including rent, mortgage, utilities, child care and medical expenses.
This is the first point of contact between the food bank and clients, so volunteers need to be great communicators, empathetic and try their best to assist clients with their needs. All volunteers go through extensive training because this can be such a delicate position when dealing with all kinds of special and unique situations.
Every Monday through Friday, sorting line volunteers sort donations from donation boxes, grouping them into their categories like canned tomatoes, soup and peanut butter.
After sorting, the groups are stored in our warehouse and taken down when needed.
The assembly is similar, but with a different job. Assembly line volunteers breaking down the groups made by the sorting line to create hampers that follow Canada’s Food Guide.
Sorting line and assembly line volunteers work during the day with different shifts that range from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Because it is a warehouse environment with moving forklifts, volunteers go through safety training before heading out to their position on the line.
Volunteers on each line are usually very charismatic and come from all different backgrounds. One day, you may be standing beside a sergeant lieutenant and the next, you’re beside a new Canadian who’s working on their English.
Whether volunteers are humming along to the music playing throughout the warehouse or chatting up their neighbour, the assembly and sorting line are great places to meet new people while helping out a great cause.
The distributing of hampers is the final stage of contact we have with clients and it is crucial.
On one side of the conveyor, lines of volunteers pack clients’ pre-packed hampers and the fresh extras like bread, meats, eggs, milk, and fresh produce. Along with these come extra treats that we all crave in times of struggle, like chocolate or ice cream.
On the other side, clients watch and converse with volunteers, letting them know what extras they need and what they cannot have.
There are many stations volunteers can be at, some are in charge of fruit while others load up with milk.
Volunteers must be compassionate and courteous with all clients and be able to lend a helping hand once they receive all their food.
This position has lighter training that some of our other positions. Volunteers check in and go through a quick safety brief and then head to the distribution line.
There are many laughs and smiles shared between volunteers and clients, but be prepared, the food bank never sees a “slow” day!
As part of their shifts, Baby Room volunteers organize donations, manage hampers and bag diapers. It can be a pretty social position, with volunteers sometimes interacting with clients, employees and other volunteers throughout the food bank.
Some volunteers have been working in the Baby Room since the ‘80s, but a lot has changed since then. The Baby Room has grown from a four-person team thirty years ago, to a 32 person team working various shifts during the week to provide all the baby necessities to families in need.
But the increase in volunteers is a direct reflection of the increased demand for Baby Room items. In 2014, the Calgary Food Bank included diapers for children under three years old in more than 10,000 hampers.
“The bottom line is helping,” says Fran Wong, a long-time Baby Room volunteer. “Even if it’s on a temporary basis, it’s a good feeling to know that you’ve helped.”
These particular volunteers have worked these positions for years, and pass the slow times by catching up on each other’s kids, grandchildren, or just life in general. It’s a close knit group, which is why they volunteer their time here week after week.
As the doors open, clients form line and are waved over by these friendly volunteers who are eager and ready to sign in and check IDs for clients with appointments to pick up their Emergency Food Hamper.
But these volunteers don’t just rubber stamp a form, they support clients through the intake process by answering clients’ questions, distributing birthday bags to children with soon or recent birthdays and — most importantly — they give referrals to other community agencies that could provide more support for their food.
Volunteers who deal directly with clients, especially interviewers, go through training with a veteran volunteer or staff to ensure they are the right person for this sensitive position. These particular volunteers need to be sensitive, tactful and respectful.
Though Driver Assistants don’t drive the trucks themselves, they sit shotgun with staff drivers and play a huge part in helping give directions as well as load and unload trucks. Staff always make sure to show the proper way to lift and carry heavy items, as well as the proper way to use a pallet jack.
Driver Assistants may need to skip a day at the gym because volunteering with drivers is a workout in itself. Bob Taverner, a long-time driver with the Calgary Food Bank, says collecting donations isn’t a walk in the park. It’s hard, but very rewarding work.
While collecting donations, volunteer drivers see firsthand the sheer number of stores, businesses schools that contribute to the food bank’s immense warehouse of food. While dropping off donations, drivers get to see the sheer number of people we help.
Many laughs are shared and lots of fun is had on the road, but most importantly, volunteers and staff see how helpful, engaged and just plain awesome the Calgary community is.
Opportunities range from collecting food and funds at the CP Holiday Train, flipping flapjacks at one of the many pancake breakfasts at Stampede, and many more. Learn about more Special Event Volunteer Opportunities.
Terry Deets is one of our most dedicated and longest-standing volunteers. He volunteers with us five days per week, every week, and has been with us for three decades. Not surprisingly, he and has become a fixture at the Calgary Food Bank.