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Individuals, groups contribute thousands of volunteer hours to NM food bank

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Monday, April 1, 2024   

Volunteering is a "leap of faith" - donating time and in-kind support to help others who are struggling - but research shows people who pitch in, improve their own mental and physical health.

Barbara Guenther is the manager of volunteer programs for New Mexico's Roadrunner Food Bank.

She said volunteers aren't always sure what they're getting into, but typically describe the experience as very rewarding.

While volunteer hours dipped during COVID, she said more folks have been returning - with upwards of 175 volunteers helping out every week, or at least once a month on a regular basis.

"For the last two years at least, coming out of the pandemic, our volunteers have donated more than 50,000 hours a year," said Guenther, "and I'm anticipating at the end of our fiscal year, probably close to 60,000."

She said those hours equate to about 25 full time employees. What's more, she says the monetary value of the volunteer time performed for Roadrunner is estimated at $1.4 million.

April is "National Volunteer Month," with mental health experts noting that volunteering can improve physical and mental health, provide purpose, teach new skills and nurture relationships.

Guenther said Roadrunner Food Bank attracts volunteers from all walks of life - corporate, civic and schools groups - and those who want to connect to the group's mission of getting food into the hands of hungry people, without barriers.

"What I find interesting," said Guenther, "is that a lot of times people will come as part of a group and that's their first contact with us and they say, 'Oh hey, this kind-of got me in the door but I want to come do this as an individual.'"

She said one way people volunteer is at Roadrunner's Albuquerque warehouse - typically working two hour shifts, sorting produce and dry and canned goods.

Those goods are later delivered statewide by trucks to food pantries, senior centers, low-income housing locations, group homes, shelters, school partners, health clinics, and other locations.



Disclosure: Roadrunner Food Bank contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Community Issues and Volunteering, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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