Interview with Raven from the food bank.
Me-First of all hi I'm crystal
R-Hi Crystal, I'm Raven I'm the volunteer coordinator.
Me-What is the main focus of this program you coordinate and what do you generally take care of?
R-For the volunteer program?
R-The focus is to involve people in the community in what we do, so we do outreach to like Nike and Intel and different corporate people as well as individuals in the community because the more who know about the food banks the more that they will be able to let other people know.
Me- so how do companies like Nike get involved?
R-Well they do food sorting mostly that's one of our primary volunteer opportunities. So they come in and they bring a team of people in and they sort food or they bag produce. Usually it's sort of low intensity team building activities for them and outreach for us.
Me- so what do you usually do here?
R-Umm... I recruit and schedule volunteers.
Me-So do you organize the kids' volunteer garden too?
R-No I just do the volunteer action center and the events, office help we have a vista who does the garden.
R-Yeah an Americorp volunteer.
Me-Oh ok. Is there any history of the program?
R-The volunteer program?
R-Hmm. It wasn't really a program until about a year ago, we've always had volunteers just come in and help. But its been developed into more of a program with recognition and monthly volunteer updates.
Me-What are some previous projects you've taken part in? Are there any special activities that you guys do or have done recently?
R-Um... one of the biggest things we do with volunteers is the letter carriers food drive.
R-Its... one day a year, the Saturday before Mother's day, the letter carriers union gets together all over the country and does a food drive. So they deliver bags to peoples houses and then the mail carries pick them up (hopefully full). we coordinate volunteers to go to each of the post offices or to help with the walking routes by driving along in their trucks. So people get together and they actually boxed up about 200,000 pounds of food in one day, in Washington County.
R-Yeah. And that's a lot of coordination, we have coca cola who donates all the trucking for that, and they drive it in here and weigh it. That's probably one of our biggest logistical volunteer projects.
Me-That's a lot of food.
R-Yeah it's a lot of fun a lot of food, we have volunteers out there right now that are still sorting that food. They'll be sorting that food probably for the rest of the summer.
Me-So is everything donated um... how is this program funded?
R-I don't know. Um... its not really funded.
Me-Oh so you mostly get volunteers and people donate stuff?
R-Yeah, a lot of our funding comes from the food bank in Portland, because we are technically the same organization. So we work under a budget that they design based on how much money the organization in general receives.
Me-Do you know where the organization gets the funding?
R-Um... its comes from different things. It comes from trusts or fundraising, it comes from corporate donations. A lot of our food comes right from whole sellers. Like the potato farms out in Eastern Washington will donate for trucks of potatoes and then that will go statewide. Yeah the thing that makes Oregon unique is that we are a network, did you hear about this?
R-The way the food bank works is that we have one main office in North Portland and then we have a state wide distribution so we have twenty agencies like us out here in Washington County. We have twenty Coordinating Agencies is what you call them. Like regional food banks. We get a percentage of whatever they get state wide so they get food from second harvest and food from the government that's grown by the government.
Me-So its divided among you guys?
R-Yes its divided based on how many people we serve. So Washington county gets about 8% of it.
Me-Who gets the biggest?
R-The Portland metro area.
Me-Do you think the program is effective and why?
R-The volunteer program?
R-Yeah it is very effective we wouldn't be able to do what we do without volunteers Washington county we have fourteen paid staff. And we moved 3.8 million pounds of food last year.
Me-So you only have 14 paid staff and the rest are all volunteers?
R-Right. We have volunteers that drive the bread truck every morning and pick up from the stores, we have volunteers who sort food we have volunteers who do office work, volunteers in the garden. Um...we have volunteers in all the events, the food drives.
Me-Are you paid staff or is your job a volunteer thing also?
R-I'm paid staff, as the volunteer coordinator. But we wouldn't be able to move food without volunteers.
Me-So without them the program wouldn't exist?
Me-How did you get involved in the program?
R-Actually it just kind of landed on my lap. I didn't start as the volunteer coordinator, I started as the special projects coordinator which is essentially everything that isn't everyone else's job. We just started having so many volunteers, that it was too much for the volunteer who was coordinating it.
Me-So you needed a staff person to handle it?
Me- So when did you first start volunteering or getting involved in other programs?
R- As a volunteer?
R-Um... I haven't done a lot of volunteering, I participated in Peace Corp, which is kind of like volunteering, and I volunteered in college. But right now I'm not doing any volunteer activities.
Me-What is a day in the life of a volunteer like?
R-I'm not sure; you'd have to ask a volunteer.
Me-Ok, well um...what kinds of activities can a volunteer look forward to when they come to help out?
R-It depends on what they're volunteering for. We have different jobs that people do. Commonly we have volunteers that come back time and time again. We don't have a lot that only come once or twice. Usually have people like those in the volunteer center you saw, that have 200 hours 300 hours, because they come back every week for years.
Me-Can you come just a couple times?
R-Sure, but a lot of people come cause its their social interaction, their family, and we give them donuts.
Me-Yeah mmm, food! Works every time. Do you have any interesting facts or experiences you'd like to share?
R-Facts or experiences. Hmm. I don't have any more facts or experiences. Um... we had some experiences with holiday basket program last year.
Me-Oh, what happened?
R-It was just a crazy experience the holiday basket program is probably our craziest time of year, we do sponsorships to families.
Me-So its during the Christmas time of year?
R-Mhhm. It starts about mid October and goes all the way through December. We match up families with individual sponsors, so you'll have a family who has two kids and they want to sponsor somebody in need so they take on another family who has two kids and they go and they meet them and give them presents and food and all that stuff. But it was a lot of logistical paperwork and there were times when we had up to 12 to 14 people in our office, in this room.
Me-Wow, it's a small room.
R-And they were trying to match that and they were all volunteers, so it becomes like a full time job for some volunteers. And the holiday basket distribution, we do our own distribution here. Because there are always families that are hard to sponsor.
Me-Do people come here?
R-There are families we can't sponsor because they don't have a phone number or they've moved or we can't find them. So they come in here top pick up their stuff. And we have about 100 volunteers each day of that distribution that help families pick out the toys and bring the food and move the carts and park the cars. That's a big volunteer production.
Me-Do you have to be a certain age to come and help out?
R-Um... you have to be twelve to be able to volunteer in the volunteer action center and in the garden there is no age limit. And you have to be 15 to volunteer without supervision from an adult.
Me-Can another volunteer be the supervisor or does it have to be a parent/guardian?
R-Usually it's a parent for logistical purposes.
Me-Is there anything else you'd like to share about the program?
R-Um... you should come volunteer. We have a pick up program, we have some good relationships with people, and it's so fun to have people who do so much for so little, monetary or reward, you know.
Me-Yeah, it sounds like a lot of fun. It sounds like a good experience.
R-It is, it is a good experience. Yeah its nice a lot of people work out here, there are a lot of people who live out here, and there are a lot of volunteer opportunities.
Me-And the Holiday one sounds especially fun.
R-It's a lot of fun. You should come back.