We Love Our Genius Volunteers
Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH is an all-volunteer operation, and one of the first challenges of the coronavirus pandemic was the fact that many of its regular volunteers fell into the highest-risk category—those over 60—who were most strongly advised to stay home. With those helpers sidelined, GHP FISH had to come up with another source of volunteers, and turned to SignUpGenius.(Click here to open SignUpGenius in a new window.)
“It’s fantastic,” said GHP FISH Volunteer Coordinator Jeannie Rodenberg. “Different people had mentioned it, and one of our board members had used it to recruit volunteers for events.” In addition, the sign-up process is really easy, Rodenberg said. Those interested in volunteering can sign up for any of four three-to-four-hour shifts, on any of the days GHP FISH is open, and help with bagging, sorting and counting food.
And volunteer they do. Almost all shifts have been filled every day, Rodenberg said. And sometimes, there are “bonus” volunteers: Say three people have signed up for a shift, and some are parents. They bring their kids, she said, who get to experience some community involvement and, perhaps, some teaching moments.
One of the Genius volunteers is Rick Offner, president of Gig Harbor’s Midday Rotary, which regularly donates to GHP FISH and has made some special donations since the shutdown started.
“Some of our members had talked about whether there were opportunities to actually volunteer,” he said. Offner talked to a friend who volunteered at GHP FISH, got a link to SignUpGenius, passed it out to Rotary members—and signed up himself. It was easy, “and I thought it was a good way for me to find times that fit my schedule and volunteer.”
“I’m really enjoying volunteering,” Offner added. “I’ve learned a lot about the food bank and how it works.” Offner also said he thinks he’ll continue volunteering after the shutdown ends.
“It’s been really interesting and there are great people there. It’s a very enjoyable time.” Harvard freshman Irvin Yi also used SignUpGenius to volunteer for GHP FISH. “I’ve always known about FISH and was planning on volunteering a couple of years ago, but didn’t have time,” Yi said. One of his friends recently reminded him, so he looked it up online, followed SignUpGenius and volunteered.
“I think it’s great,” he said of GHP FISH. “The services are undeniably extremely important to the community, it’s a great working environment and the staff is super-welcoming. I enjoy it and plan on keeping on volunteering as much as I can, both this summer and into the future.” Yi just finished his first year at Harvard, studying economics with a minor in global health and health policy. His main career goal is to go into medicine as a physician and possibly do some other graduate work as well. “I’m trying to serve and interact with as many people as possible to get experiences similar to medicine,” he said. “This is a great opportunity both for me to gain experience and do something that really helps at the same time.”
Another SignUpGenius volunteer is Jayme Lenker, a counselor at Harbor Ridge Middle School. “Having more flexible time in my schedule, having children 10 and 13, and being pretty service-oriented prompted me to call the food bank and offer to take over for volunteers who can’t come in now,” she said. Already familiar with SignUpGenius, once she received the link from GHP FISH, she posted it on social media and shared it with friends who were in similar situations. Some of them signed up too.
Lenker and her children are now regulars on Thursday afternoons. Lenker has used her connections with the school district and the Church of the Nazarene, where her husband is pastor, to reach out to families who hadn’t taken advantage of GHP FISH and certainly qualified for assistance.
“I got on the phone and told people about it, delivered groceries to a couple of families, and called students who could take advantage of both the food service and financial aid,” she said. “It helps to be connected with what’s going on,” she added. People might need an extra push to come in during the shutdown, so letting clients know that someone is already there to meet them makes it simple.
Just another reason to love having Genius volunteers on the GHP FISH team.