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Food Bank of the Rockies seeing a shortage of volunteers ahead of holiday season

The Food Bank of the Rockies is seeing a shortage of volunteers in the kitchen.

DENVER — It's that time of year for the community to come together and help those in need. 

There are so many different ways to help out this holiday season, whether that's donating to a food bank, setting up a food drive or volunteering.

Like many years in the past, 9NEWS has partnered up with a food bank in the Denver area to help our neighbors in need.  For our 39th annual 9Cares Colorado Share food drive, we are teaming up with the Food Bank of the Rockies

Food Bank of the Rockies is an organization that helps serve roughly half of Colorado and all of Wyoming. Like most non-profits around the country, they rely heavily on volunteers, and the Food Bank of the Rockies needs more volunteers this holiday season. 

Aditi Desai, the vice president of marketing communications at the Food Bank of the Rockies, said the need for volunteers is higher than ever. 

"Through the pandemic, the need has continued to be high for food assistance, so we always need volunteers at any given period of time," Desai said. 

One of the areas seeing the biggest shortage of volunteers is the kitchen. 

"Right now. We do have a shortage in the kitchen. The volunteers for the kitchen are very helpful," Desai said. 

George and Connie Rush are a retired couple who has been volunteering at the Food Bank of the Rockies for almost three years now. They've been helping out in the kitchen once a week. 

The couple said that people might be intimidated to volunteer in the kitchen because they might think you have to cook. However, they both explain it as easy. 

"It's really easy. It really is. Like I said, it's fun. It's different every time, and we get to meet different people that come in. We're pretty regular. And so we get to meet a lot of different people," Connie Rush said.

So what exactly should volunteers expect when they get in the kitchen? Well, Connie and George said it varies every week. 

"Well, we come in and they give us something to do. One week, I was dishing out pineapples," George Rush said explaining his weekly duties. "This week I'm doing the salad, and it's just something different each week. I might be slicing up cucumbers, but it all goes into one section. Either two cup or three cup tray. We put them on the rack when they're all filled, and it can be anywhere from 1500 to just over 2000. Then we seal them, put a sticker on them explaining what’s in there."

Each food tray is sent to children in the community who may not get a meal that day. This is one of Connie's favorite parts of volunteering at the food bank. 

"I think knowing that we're making meals for so many kids that would otherwise not even have maybe a meal that day is very rewarding."

The Food Bank of the Rockies helps thousands of people a day, but just like the rest of the world, things have changed at the facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Both George and Connie say the whole operation is different from when they started.

"Well, pre-COVID the whole operation here was totally different. We'd have the cans of beans, salsa, tomatoes, whatever it was and we'd open them up, empty them, dish them out into large trays and seal them up to be served to children buffet style," George Rush said. "And then they would go out. Now, we put them in the unitized trays. And I guess that's because of the pandemic, the less handling of it. Perhaps. So it's totally different in that regard." 

Credit: KUSA
Credit: KUSA

While the kitchen is one of the areas that need the most help, there are many areas at the Food Bank of the Rockies that are always in need of volunteers. 

"The need for volunteers is consistent regardless of the season, and we could not do this critical work without their amazing support,” Desai said.

Here are the steps if you're interested in volunteering at the Food Bank of the Rockies: 

1. Visit the Food Bank of the Rockies website and click on the tab that says "Get Involved."

2.  Scroll down to the section that says "How to get started as a new volunteer" 

3. Once you're there click on "Create account"; Once you click on this you will be promoted to a calendar. From there pick a time and a location you would like to volunteer. There are three locations available to volunteer at. 

4. Click on the date and location you would like to volunteer at and click on "Sign up";  NOTE: If interested in volunteering with a group email volunteer@foodbankrockies.org  to reserve a spot.

5. A sign-in site will pop up, click on the "create new account" button. You will then be asked to fill out the information about yourself.

6. You are all set to volunteer at the location and date selected.

Requirements to volunteer at the Food Bank of the Rockies: 

  • Must be able to move freely, stand, walk for long periods of time, bend, reach and lift up to 30 pounds. 
  • Must be at least 8 years old. Anyone under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. 
  • Volunteers in the kitchen must be 18 years old or older.

Many people may be afraid of the idea of volunteering but Desai says to give it a try and if you're unable to volunteer, there are other ways to help. 

"The top two ways that people can really give back and ensure everyone in our community has food on the table is either by coming to Food Bank of the Rockies and volunteering their time, which is invaluable or by giving a financial gift. And so depending on where you are in your life, either of these options is so impactful in terms of ensuring that everybody has enough food to thrive."

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