JFS Perspectives

Friday, April 17, 2020

National Volunteer Week: Honoring Our Extraordinary Community’s Response to COVID-19 Crisis

National Volunteer Week: Honoring Our Extraordinary Community’s Response to COVID-19 Crisis

Extraordinary. Unbelievable yet believable. Overwhelming outpouring of support. These are a few terms we’ve heard from our Volunteer Services team in the last month regarding the community response to requests for help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we’ve always had a strong community of volunteers and supporters, we’ve never seen the number of people rally so quickly to help…not only our current volunteers, but other individuals and families throughout the metro Denver area.

Nancy Benyamin, director of Volunteer Services, says, “So many of us are feeling powerless during this pandemic. Volunteerism empowers you to make a difference, helps you get through difficult times, and allows us to feel like a part of something. People are craving that need to help right now and I see it happening all around us.”

Food pantry volunteersIn our first 11 days of volunteer recruitment to assist the Weinberg Food Pantry staff during the COVID crisis, we listed 213 volunteer shifts. The response we received was extraordinary; over those 11 days, 130 individual volunteers answered our call and filled 198 of the 213 shifts. Tasks included sorting food, packing boxes, distributing boxes, assisting with the arrival of donations, and delivering food to homebound clients. And this trend has continued –every time we post a volunteer need, slots are filled within a day.

Volunteer staffing for these immediate and critical needs have been achieved through a host of recruitment efforts throughout the Denver community, including, but not limited to: the current JFS active volunteer mailing list; posts on VolunteerMatch, Spark the Change, Idealist, Help Colorado Now, and Mile High United Way; outreach to local civic, youth, and faith groups; communication with local synagogues, Jewish organizations including JEWISHcolorado, Denver Jewish Chamber of Commerce, and Ekar Farm; and the help of JFS staff, families, Board members, and donors.

JFS at the JCC meal distributionThe community has rallied in other ways, too, such as providing check-in calls to isolated older adults; distributing and delivering kosher lunches to JFS at the JCC participants; delivering groceries to homebound families; donating food, diapers, Passover food, or money in Denver and Boulder; and sharing our requests on social media. In fact, because of all the social media shares, many of the volunteers are new to JFS.

Nancy adds, “We’ve always seen our community give of themselves and knew what our volunteers were capable of, but have never seen it in such a massive way. This outpouring of support is both believable and unbelievable at the same time. It gives us hope for the future of our community and the world. The response has been truly inspirational and fuels us to keep going every day.”

We’re not sure how much longer this crisis will continue, but there are two things we do know: JFS will always be here to serve individuals and families in need and the community will always volunteer to help us accomplish that!

META DESCRIPTION: For National Volunteer Week, Jewish Family Service of Colorado thanks its extraordinary volunteers - old and new - who have stepped up to help with our COVID-19 response.