The outreach efforts for this program were heavily focused on making a community presence during the off-season months of winter and into the beginning of the growing season. Attending monthly meetings for existing community organizations and coalitions, local farmers market informational booths and having an active organization representative working with the community helped the outreach efforts earlier in the year. In a rural community “face time” is paramount.
Targeting organized groups during the off-season, outreach efforts and pin-pointing specific projects for these groups helped recruitment efforts. For example, a local organization has a commitment to donate one full work day per year towards community service. Instead of assembling a team from scratch, the Harvest VISTA reached out to this group and recruited them to volunteer with OCCAC by building a garden for a low-income family. Other recruitment efforts were made in public spaces such as farmers markets where new volunteers signed up on a general volunteer sign-up sheet. During early spring, seeds and surveys were distributed to food bank clients for the upcoming gardening season. Several volunteers were gained by this type of recruitment outreach.
As the age range for this season’s volunteers was kindergarteners through senior citizens, retaining them was a challenge as different generations approach volunteering differently. Retention ranged from regular contact via phone or email, to a gradual increase of responsibilities forming lead volunteers. Some volunteers like working on their own schedule, while others like less responsibility and enjoy just “showing-up.” In either event, flexibility is key. One-on-one attention and fitting the volunteer(s) to the event (or vice versa) seemed to be the best approach for retention.
A volunteer appreciation event was put in place last January as a way to generate off-season recognition to our 2010 volunteers and donors. A simple gathering with appetizers, beverages and mingling took place at the local grange hall. Additionally, previous end of year gleaning totals were shared and awards were handed out to lead volunteers and major donors. During the garden-building season and gleaning season thank you emails, cards and phone calls were administered to both volunteers and donors. A BBQ to kick-off the gleaning season was held adjacent to a Saturday Farmers Market and allowed existing and potential new volunteers to meet and learn about gleaning. Continual gathering events and small tokens of appreciation is the approach OCCAC has taken. For 2012, T-shirts were given to major volunteers and donors as a form of gratitude.
The OCCAC Food Bank serves as a distribution point for all of the food banks all over Okanogan county. We work to glean from local growers, and offer training for raised bed gardening and food preservation techniquest in order to provide a holistic approach to the issue of Food Security.