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May 5, 2014

Lesser-known volunteer roles at SFBFS

As Volunteer Services Manager, one of the biggest parts of my job is sharing all the various volunteer opportunities at SFBFS. Many new volunteers enter the organization thinking that sorting and bagging groceries is the only thing that volunteers can do to help out. In reality, there are dozens of ways that volunteers can help. Often, volunteers are doing quite unexpected and extraordinary things in our programs. Because there are many volunteer roles that people aren’t aware of, I’d like to share some of the lesser-known volunteer needs from each of our programs.

-Food program: Most people are aware that volunteers are needed to help at our food distributions with sorting and packing food, but did you know about our need for Demonstration Garden volunteers? Our quarter-acre Demonstration Garden, located at our main facility in Oak Park, is especially in need of volunteers during the summer months on weekday mornings. Immerse yourself in harvesting, transplanting, maintenance and other garden related projects. Maybe you can assist during a class and help our clients learn how to grow their own food at home!

-Clothing program: Clothing program volunteers help with a lot of different things, but one unique project is helping to choose items for our teen rack. Teenage shoppers in the Clothing program often can’t find items they’d like to wear – it’s often embarrassing to have to shop with mom or dad, or they aren’t as aggressive shoppers as they need to be to find clothing they like. Volunteers help by picking and choosing clothing that should be on the teen rack so it’s well stocked for our teenage clients.

-Adult Education: Our Adult Education program consists of three main areas: English as a Second language (ESL) classes, tutoring in Adult Basic Education and GED preparation, and technology. Technology Lab Volunteers are more in demand than ever before. Volunteers teach 7 week long courses on technology basics. Classes run throughout the year, but volunteers may commit to just one 7 week long course at a time. Not sure if you’re ready to teach in front of a group? Join us as an assistant in the classroom – the main qualifications for volunteers are patience and encouragement!

-Parent Education: Volunteers in the Parent Education program have done incredible things. We’ve had volunteers become lactation consultants to volunteer their expertise to new moms, social workers facilitate group discussions in the evenings, yoga instructors teach classes to expectant and new moms, talented seamstresses sew cloth diapers to donate and much, much more. There are so many ways to get involved, but probably the least-known need is volunteer dads.  Experienced dads are needed to help develop classes and support groups for the dads in our community. Dads that speak Spanish would be a huge plus!

-Youth Education: Youth Education consists of three components: PlayCare Academy, After-School Academy and Computer Clubhouse. All serve different age groups and have different focuses. A lesser known volunteer need in Youth Education is the Computer Clubhouse Communications & Fundraising position, where volunteers help to spread the word about the Clubhouse’s available services, seek out possible funding and resources, invite guest speakers to engage with the teens and much more.

-Senior program: Senior program volunteers are matched with a senior in need in the community and visit their senior twice a month. There is only one volunteer need, but the volunteer experience varies greatly. You may be matched with a senior that shares your love of reading – so you read the same books each month and catch up on them during your visits. You may be a history buff who is matched with someone who loves talking about their past life experiences. We have had volunteers who are real problem-solvers help connect their seniors with needed community resources. We have seen amazing, real connections form between volunteers and seniors – it’s a special program.

If you are interested in getting involved as a volunteer in any of our programs, please sign up for a volunteer orientation at

Submitted by Robin Simpson, Volunteer Services Manager at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

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