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National Volunteer Month: Spotlight on our champions

After retiring from teaching, Jeffery began volunteering at DC Central Kitchen. On his first day, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

His first task: mincing garlic for the entirety of his two-hour shift. By the time he stopped smelling like garlic, it was time to come back for this second shift, at which he diced equally fragrant onions. Two years later, Jeffery is still coming back, ready to support the kitchen – no matter the task. His consistency has meant that he can take on a volunteer leadership role by helping new volunteers find their way and supporting our staff.

More than 16,000 volunteers joined us last year at DC Central Kitchen, which amounts to more than 48,000 volunteer hours. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to prepare 3.2 million meals for our neighbors in need. Some volunteers travel from across the United States for one shift and some local DC residents schedule recurring shifts. Some join us on school or company trips, others come on their own. Some are from DC’s local restaurants and others have never been in a commercial kitchen. What binds them together is a common belief in our values that waste is wrong – whether that waste is perfectly nutritious food or productive minds. Our volunteers are committed to helping us break the cycle of hunger and poverty for good.

In honor of #nationalvolunteerweek, we wanted to highlight some of the regular volunteers that make our jobs possible. On Tuesday mornings we welcome our “heavy hitters,” a group who all started volunteering with us at different times.  They continue to serve with us because of their experiences in our kitchen the and relationships they’ve built, both with our staff and with each other.

Michelle joined us in the summer of 2017, after moving with her family to DC. She had been working with another non-profit and knew that she wanted to get involved in DC. Her interest in cooking and nutrition brought her to DC Central Kitchen where she was “hooked after her first shift” making over 1,000 granola bars for our Community Meals program. It wasn’t the granola that kept her with us, but the relationships she built with fellow volunteers and staff as she explored a new city.

David is one of our longest standing volunteers, dedicating his Tuesday mornings for over six years. Each time he visits the kitchen, he is “amazed at what we can do with very little” and how we transform the food we recover. Like Michelle and Jefferey, David was initially surprised by the scale at which we operate, noting that “when you’re cooking at home, you might need one onion a week. Here you can cut 50 pounds of onions in one morning.”

We’re incredibly lucky to have dedicated volunteers who join us every week and help us prepare 5,000 daily meals for the community. We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without their continuous commitment to making our community a better place.