Celebrating National Volunteer Week
When the doors of Bread for the City are open, they are matched by the open hearts of thousands of generous volunteers who serve our two centers and orchard, and support a host of special projects each year.
During the cold, “slow” months, nearly 400 volunteer slots are filled each month in our food pantries and clothing room, our medical and legal clinics, and our social services programs. When things warm up, hundreds more bring their smiles and support to weekly service opportunities at our orchard, farmers’ market, Sunday Produce Sort, and two rooftop gardens.
In 1974, a single volunteer helped us begin. With a small $5,000 gift, a nurse, and donated space, Bread for the City’s founders were ready to open a medical clinic. Legally, however, they could not open unless a licensed physician agreed to oversee the operation … but what physician would volunteer to work without pay?
When Dr. Jack Bresette finally agreed to the role, he came “reluctantly and mostly out of guilt,” but volunteering left him “changed … healed … peaceful … and humbled.” The service of that first physician—and the others who soon joined him—marked the beginning of a movement which, more than 40 years later, has resulted in Bread for the City being able to offer a wealth of high-quality, free services to individuals living with low income in Washington, DC.
Today, Bread for the City has a staff of over 100, but the service of volunteers (which supports the needs of 8,000 to 10,000 clients each month) continues to ensure the work of each department can be successful. In some cases, it ensures that some programs can even exist:
- Two Fridays a month, about 4,000 pounds of produce has to be sorted for and distributed to community members visiting Bread for the City’s Free Farmers Market. The bulk of this work, executed in a two-hour span, is completed by volunteers.
- Here at Bread, we’re proud of our full-time physicians and dentist. Our medical services, however, would not be complete without the help of volunteer doctors—many of whom are specialists in various fields—who provide their services for free through our medical clinic.
- Only one full-time and one part-time staff member serve Bread for the City’s 3-acre orchard day to day. The remainder of the planting, weeding, harvesting, and general tending-to of crops is executed by volunteers.
- Donations to our clothing room come in every single day to help accommodate the 800+ visits the room sees every month. Who would sort the donations and replenish the floor stock if there were no volunteers?
It’s easy to go on. Among our volunteers is a retired attorney who gives Bread for the City 64 hours of his time every single month … and has been doing so for years. (Thanks, Bruce!)
A volunteer at our Southeast Center committed a decade to helping keep our clients informed through bulletin board and calendar updates. The staff of a particular federal agency comes to package bread for our food pantry every month, and we have half a dozen service corps volunteers who spend a year with us full-time performing a wide variety of services that help keep us moving forward.
These individuals only begin to tell the story. We estimate that the dollar value of volunteer services to Bread for the City is about $600,000 per year, plus an additional $115,000 for contributed professional hours in medical and legal. Whether reinforcing a paper bag in the food pantry or litigating a domestic violence case, each individual volunteer makes a difference and helps to ensure more of our friends and neighbors here in Washington, D.C. take a step further away from the obstacles associated with living in poverty.
We appreciate our volunteers’ commitment. We appreciate their time.
We’re grateful for the way they help us accomplish our mission.
We would not be Bread for the City without them.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!