Area nonprofits rely on volunteers to manage tasks

The staff at the Corner Cupboard food bank is, to say the least, small.

“I’ve been the director here for three years,” Director Candace Webster said, “and I can tell you we’re a two-person staff.”

Webster and Jessica Cole, operations manager, have a lot to handle running the food bank, but the reason it can function the way it does, Webster said, is because of volunteer work.

“When I came to the job, and still even a little bit now there still is some confusion as to what exactly a food bank is,” she said. “Of course, we’re a non-profit [organization] here, so we do receive a portion of an allocation from the government to purchase food products.”

To be exact, the food bank’s budget to buy those products is between $250,000 and $300,000, said Webster. In addition, the food bank oversees 11 pantry sites, all of which are run by volunteers. Since the budget wouldn’t allow for expanding the full-time staff, volunteer work is especially essential.

“The bottom line is, we could not at all do what we do [without volunteers],” she said. “We couldn’t carry out our mission if it were not for volunteers. Right now, we’re not [in] a terrible place, but financially, it just is not feasible for us to hire three or four more people. So we rely on volunteers to accomplish things month by month.”

Since Webster took over as director, she’s noticed an increase in reliance on volunteer work.

“People with jobs have hours cut and just fall on hard times on a daily basis,” she said. “So that, coupled with, most recently, the government shutdown [are challenging.] More people in need creates more things for us to do. More fundraising, more grant writing, more food purchasing, more getting out to the community and promoting the food bank and the purpose really trying to generate support.”

Among the volunteers who assist with non-profit organizations are Waynesburg University students, particularly Bonner Scholars. One of the non-profit organizations that students volunteer at is the Salvation Army.

While it’s challenging for students to find time to contribute due to the Salvation Army not being open on the weekends, there are still some who find ways to make an impact.

“Students have come for their services learning hours, so that depends on their schedule,” Audrey Quinn, director of the Salvation Army, said. “I’ve had Bonner Scholars that have worked here for several months getting their hours in.”

About two years ago, Webster was talking with Kelley Hardie, assistant dean of student services at Waynesburg, when Hardie told her that she could send about 100 students to assist at the food bank. The two were discussing what work could be done, and Webster mentioned the possibility of a garden to be created by the food bank.

“In our chatting, I mentioned that I walked through there sometimes, and I was thinking ‘how cool would it be to have a little garden there?’” she said. “The two of us [on staff], we handle a lot, but I don’t know how we’d accomplish a garden. It would just have to be volunteers coming in, and the idea of promoting self-sustainability and just people wanting to contribute to the garden.”

For Quinn, volunteers working at a place like the food bank or the Salvation Army—whether it be for class or for people trying to get their lives back on track after a run in with the law—makes a difference in Greene County.

“It’s an opportunity to do something for the community, and help the organizations with projects they have,” she said.