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It’s 7:30 a.m. at our Cypress Center and our staff is already getting set up to host volunteers for the day. The Volunteer Services staff rarely gets down time with hundreds of volunteers coming through our buildings daily. While it keeps our staff busy, distributing nearly 1.2 million pounds of food per week to our neighbors in need would be impossible without help from volunteers.

The day starts with an empty sort room and within two hours it is set up to host 50+ volunteers for the first shift. Since Cypress Center is our produce hub, the volunteer sorts have to be prepped just before the volunteers arrive since the fruits and vegetables have to be kept in the “cooler” (what we call the giant refrigerator in the warehouse). This morning the vegetables of choice are carrots and red cabbage, in addition to bread.These choices were made in cooperation with our Inventory team, based on what’s in the warehouse, how quickly it needs to get turned over, what is needed to make menus for clients, and how many volunteers are coming in that day.

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“When setting up for volunteers, the goal is for everything to be ready to go when they come in so that we can provide a good process and clear instructions to complete whatever project we put before them. No matter how chaotic things get behind the scenes, we want our volunteers to feel valued because what they do is important for our work. Our volunteers could always be doing something else with their time but they place their trust in us to have a good experience and in turn we trust them to show up and help us get food out the door,” said David Saxton, Volunteer Coordinator.

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The Volunteer Services staff moves pallets of produce from the cooler to the sort room and expertly organizes it for easy sorting. Once the volunteers arrive, they sort out the bad produce, which goes to farms to feed pigs and other animals, and repackage the produce into manageable boxes for distribution, usually 25 pounds each. There are bins for waste, tables for sorting, scales for weighing the finished boxes, and empty pallets for stacking the newly created boxes. By 9:30 a.m., the volunteer sort room is ready to go and our corporate volunteer group has begun their important work.

While November and December are our busiest seasons for volunteering, we need help all year round, and we are starting to feel the shortage of help after the holidays. Go to the Volunteer section of our website to see current volunteer opportunities, not only at our Cypress Center but also at our Bing Center in San Mateo County, as well as the ongoing opportunities available at our distribution sites. All groups must be scheduled ahead of time, so please consider signing up your company, community group or a group of family and friends to volunteer this spring to give back in a big way to your hungry neighbors in need.