Choosing to Make a Difference
When COVID hit its stride last year, many hunkered down to try to wait it out, unsure of how long it would last, but it’s stuck around beyond what anyone hoped. It created a daunting, new challenge for our food distribution team, but our volunteers are no strangers when it comes to adapting.
“We’ve faced storms, car accidents, dead batteries, flat tires, injuries – you name it,” said Ashlie Johnson, Director of Engagement. So COVID, as unique as it was, was just another obstacle to get through.
Our volunteers, our properties, our staff, our budgeting, our planning – they all learned to adjust in order to accomplish our mission of feeding the hungry.
The pandemic made things difficult, sure, but not impossible.
“We had quite a few volunteers who have not returned because of COVID, but we had a lot of them – praise God! – who wanted to get involved immediately because of COVID,” Ashlie said.
So while many organizations were searching for volunteers to help, St. Matthew’s House was blessed with 914 active volunteers who chose to show up to help the less fortunate in the community.
“The volunteers don’t have to be here; they choose to be here,” said Ashlie. “And to see them continue to come back, to serve faithfully – it gives me goosebumps. That’s the Holy Spirit guiding us and bringing us together.”
The ongoing COVID food distributions were one of the biggest “events” for volunteers over the past 12 months. The collective opportunities were of the utmost interest to the volunteers and of the utmost need for St. Matthew’s House.
“If volunteers stopped going to the food warehouse and food distributions, food assistance operations would shut down,” Ashlie said. “They cannot function without volunteers.”
It’s incredible how 34 years ago, St. Matthew’s House began with a small group of women volunteering their time, and today volunteers continue to be a critical part of the operations.
To sum it up, it’s been a year that none will forget, and a true testament of the unifying power of God and the heart of community.
“I’ve built relationships that are deeper and stronger than before COVID,” Ashlie said. “Yes, I already knew a lot of these people, but not like I know them today. To serve alongside them, to sweat alongside them… there’s a real camaraderie that develops.”
In total, 32,298.25 hours were clocked by our volunteers, which amounts to approximately $921,792.06 worth of service.
In contrast to the rush of strategizing and learning to pivot at the beginning of the pandemic, Ashlie says she now feels almost a sense of euphoric bliss and satisfaction.
“We’ve made it through; now we’re just continuing the course,” Ashlie said. “So with the utmost sincerity, from the bottom of my heart, I’d say to all our volunteers: well done.”
Click here to read John’s story, a warehouse volunteer.