Second Harvest seeks volunteers for sorting, packing foods
In the three years she’s been a volunteer at 2nd Harvest Tri-Cities in Pasco, tons of food have passed through Kathy Mitchell’s hands. Mitchell is a retired Kennewick School District teacher, who spent decades teaching first graders the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic.
[blockquote quote=”We need about 1,000 volunteer hours a week to process all the food that’s donated.” source=”Lamar Cloy, special events and volunteer manager for 2nd Harvest” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]
The Kennewick woman still helps out one day a week in a KSD classroom, but never on Wednesdays — those mornings, she belongs to 2nd Harvest.
“I’ve always been a volunteer working for various organizations like United Way and now for 2nd Harvest. I just want to give back to the community in any way I can,” she said.
Mitchell is one of a core group of 10 to 12 volunteers who show up each Wednesday to sort through donations of fresh produce, canned goods and other foods donated to 2nd Harvest.
“We’re the area food banks’ food bank,” said Lamar Cloy, special events and volunteer manager for 2nd Harvest Tri-Cities.
The Pasco facility is part of a network of nonprofit food distribution centers. The Tri-Cities’ facility supplies about 55 food banks meal centers and other programs in Benton and Franklin counties, parts of Walla Walla County and as far north as Connell.
“Spokane 2nd Harvest supplies food banks in their area and as far south as Ritzville and Moses Lake,” he said.
Volunteers at the Pasco 2nd Harvest sort 150,000 pounds of produce, canned goods and other foods each week.
Second Harvest distributed nearly 4.4 million pounds of donated food in the Mid-Columbia in 2015, an amount valued at approximately $7.5 million.
About 14 percent of Mid-Columbia residents live at the poverty level,” Cloy said. In addition, one of every eight residents doesn’t know where their next meal, or the following week’s meals, will come from, he added.
The food is donated by area growers and food processers, grocery distribution centers, or obtained through food drives, or other various sources.
“We need about 1,000 volunteer hours a week to process all the food that’s donated,” Cloy said. “People like Kathy are invaluable.”
Cash donations from the public are also used to purchase bulk foods, which are then divided among the various food banks.
Cloy said that because of the discounts the nonprofit receive, it is able to provide five meals with each dollar donated.
Kate Larson of Richland is another of Cloy’s core group of Wednesday volunteers. She and her husband, Andrew, have been 2nd Harvest volunteers for more than a year.
“When I’m working, I know I’m helping to support a great cause. And it’s great exercise,” said Kate Larson, lifting a 20-pound box of potatoes.
Diane Hails of West Richland began helping out during the Wednesday morning sessions in December.
She and her family moved to the Tri-Cities three years ago and now that her children are older, Hails decided to use her free time to get back into volunteer work.
“Living in California, I volunteered at the hospital, helped with pet adoptions at PetSmart and with other organizations,” Hails said. “Here in the Tri-Cities, I looked around to see where I was needed. When I checked into this program and saw the sheer volume of people it helped I knew this was where I wanted to work.”
Hails said the volunteer work helps her feels that she’s contributing to the community.
“I just help where I can and if at the end of the day I’m tired it’s a good day,” she said. “I like to think if later on if I need help someone would be there to help, whether it’s a friend or an anonymous person.”
Cloy said 2nd Harvest has a database of about 2,100 volunteers, but only about 300-400 each month are actively volunteering at the organization.
Cloy said volunteers can come in for just a few hours, one day a week, or on a regular schedule — whatever fits into their schedule.
“We’ll take any help we can get, whenever we can get it,” he said.
The Pasco 2nd Harvest also has about six work/study Columbia Basin College students who are learning warehousing, how to run forklifts and pallet jacks, how to work with other agencies and more.
There are only five full-time employees at the Pasco facility and one delivers the donations to the various food banks.
Volunteers are needed to help in the office and to drive the moving van-sized trucks that pick up and deliver food.
“It doesn’t matter what skill you have, or just a willingness to lend a hand, we’ll put you to work,” Cloy said.
Regularly scheduled sessions for sorting and packing foods are:
- 6-8 p.m., Mondays.
- 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays.
- 6-8 p.m., Thursdays, when youths 9 years and older can participate with an adult.
- 9 a.m. to noon, Saturdays.
Youths 14 and older are welcome to participate without an adult companion during any sorting and packing session.