By Dacey Zouzas
So many people look for ways to give back to the community but are not really sure how they can help, or where to help. There are many deserving nonprofit organizations right in your own backyard where you can donate your valuable time. If you’re passionate about fighting hunger, homelessness, and those who are less fortunate, there is no shortage of places for you to help in the Merrimack Valley.
Debbie Callery, community relations coordinator at the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, will gladly assist you in scheduling your day of service, organizing a food drive or other service project. Debbie has been with the food bank since 2010.
The MVFB has volunteer opportunities, whether you are looking for a team-building experience for your organization, are a student in need of service hours, or a retiree with extra time on your hands… In addition to scheduling volunteers, Debbie organizes our special events, such as the Grape Expectations wine tasting extravaganza, golf tournament, and our two neighborhood food drives in Lowell and surrounding towns.
The MVFB offers volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Whether you are looking for a team-building experience for your organization, are a student in need of service hours, or a retiree with extra time on your hands, we can use your help. We welcome your group, family or just you Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Opportunities may include filling bags with food that are distributed through our Operation Nourish children’s feeding program, or that are delivered monthly to the home-bound elderly and disabled clients of our Mobile Pantry, sorting and inspecting the non-perishable food items received through the many food drives held on our behalf, or assisting us with administrative tasks.
Volunteers are welcome for 1-2 hours a month, and on a one-time basis. During the summer and fall months, you can assist our staff at our Community Market, a free farmers market for residents of various Lowell Housing Authority properties. If you’re looking for a weekend opportunity that is perfect for your entire family or group, please consider helping with the two annual Pantry Raids neighborhood food drives that we conduct in Lowell and Dracut in March and September. This can be done in any city or town, in any neighborhood!
Sometimes we don’t have opportunities available for volunteers and we will gladly refer you to another organization. There are several other organizations, local meals programs, pantries or shelters we may refer you to here in Lowell or surrounding towns. We may refer you to serve meals on weekends at the International Ministry of Deliverance or at Table of Plenty in Chelmsford. You may also be referred to volunteer at organizations such as the Salvation Army or Lowell Transitional Living Center.
Looking for other ways to get involved? Host a food drive! You can collect non-perishable food at work, in your neighborhood, church, Scouts, book club or family gathering. Want to conduct a food drive at your work? Debbie can help you organize it. Our food drives in 2014 allowed the MVFB to collect 101,685 pounds of food that made 78,219 meals. In May, we are the recipients of the postal food drive, and throughout the holiday season we receive food and other generous donations from various holiday food drives. There is always a way for you to help us fight hunger!
Dacey Zouzas is director of development for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, Inc. (MVFB), which operates eight food programs that benefit low-income individuals and families who lack the financial resources to purchase sufficient quantities of nutritious foods while struggling to pay other household expenses. For information about MVFB, call 978-454-7272 or visit www.mvfb.org.