Calling all volunteers
Five Loaves Food Shelf is hoping to recruit new volunteers and make it easier to help.
Shanta Mortimore, food shelf coordinator, said she hopes to create different volunteer opportunities for people that touch on their skills and make expectations very clear.
"We need to get very specific for the volunteers so they know exactly what they're signing up for," she said.
For example, she said some volunteers prefer to simply stock the shelves and don't want to interact with the food shelf clients. Others, like Pat McConville, prefer to only work with the food shelf clients.
Mortimore said many of her volunteers are snowbirds and disappear to warmer states in the winter. Similarly, once school breaks for summer, many volunteer families take off for cabins or have other activities planned.
"The number of volunteers we have fluctuates. January through March and June through August are weird times for us," Mortimore said. "The other pressure we feel is that we don't want to burn anybody out. We want people to feel like they can come in, do their two hours a month and that's OK."
For McConville, daughter Jill Foster, granddaughter Sam Foster and fiance Zac Dempsey, that's exactly what they do.
The family of three generations volunteers once a month during the Tuesday night shift.
McConville has been a volunteer in some capacity her entire life, she said. For many years she provided foster care for children and even now, when she winters in Arizona, she volunteers with St. Vincent De Paul, a charity designed to help the homeless, poor and disenfranchised.
Several years ago, when Five Loaves was looking for volunteers, McConville said she didn't think twice.
"It's just by the grace of God that I don't need to come here," she said.
McConville's daughter, Jill Foster, got involved with Five Loaves about five years ago.
Foster said she heard about the volunteer opportunities from her mother and co-worker Tami Larson, who used to serve on Five Loaves' board of directors.
"Volunteering was instilled in me at a young age," Foster said. "With Sam (Foster's daughter) we did Bingo at The Deerfield and she went to school at St. Mary's where they're big on volunteering."
Foster said she also feels a responsibility to volunteer.
"I've been there," Jill Foster said. "I only had to go once, but it was necessary."
Foster said she was living in North St. Paul and was newly separated from her husband and not getting child support.
"My expenses were just too much for a few months," she said. "I used the food shelf there once and probably borrowed money from Mom and Dad a time or two during those first few months until I got used to the extra expenses... I was lucky I had parents who were willing to help out. Many people don't have that kind of support system."
Jill Foster said it's that experience that made her want to volunteer at Five Loaves.
Sam Foster, 23, got involved about two years ago when she filled in for her grandmother during the winter months. Eventually she started coming every month, even when her grandmother was in town.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "Plus, I really like to socialize."
Five Loaves Food Shelf has about 50 to 60 volunteers, said Mortimore.
About 550 households are currently registered with the food shelf.
"We're not actually seeing that many," she said. "I'd say 200 to 250 come every month."
Mortimore said that while 550 households are registered to use the food shelf, people generally only use the service when it's absolutely needed -- leaving the food for those who might need it more.
"People don't abuse it," she said. "There's a high level of respect for what we're doing here and many families won't come if they feel they don't need it or they won't take the maximum of an item if they feel they can get by with less."
Mortimore said she'd love to see more of New Richmond's teen population get involved with the food shelf.
"We're interested in getting younger people involved," Mortimore said. "I'd like to work with the high school counselors to help students realize this type of work would be good for college applications, honor society applications and would give them a sense of empowerment."
For more information on Five Loaves Food Shelf, call 715-243-7491 or visit http://www.5loavesfoodandclothing.org.