December 11, 2020

On today's show, Adrian and Ethan discuss the importance of volunteers in the nonprofit world.

International Volunteer Day (IVD), held on 5 December, was designated by the United Nations in 1985 as an international observance day to celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism.

It is an opportunity to raise awareness and gain understanding for the contribution volunteers make in their communities. The act of volunteering is found in all cultures, languages, and religions. Each year, hundreds of millions of people volunteer their time and skills to help make the world a better place.

According to data from 2019, about 63 million Americans volunteer about 8 billion hours of their time, talent, and effort to improve and strengthen their communities. With the new Value of Volunteer Time, these Americans are contributing approximately $203.4 billion to our nation through nonprofit organizations of all types.

Because of the pandemic, social service providers that rely on volunteers are having to scale back operations across the nation, just as more Americans are coming to them for help. Many food banks are facing shortages in volunteers as more and more families are visiting food banks for the first time.

According to Feeding America, from the beginning of March through the end of October, food banks nationwide distributed an estimated 4.2 billion meals to our neighbors facing hunger in the United States.

As the holidays arrive, many of our neighbors are facing a difficult realization: for the first time, they won't be able to afford food for their family, as layoffs and business closures have interrupted the incomes of many Americans. In October alone, food banks distributed 50 percent more food than they did last year at the same time.

Many food banks need your help and have volunteer opportunities available right now. Before the pandemic, food banks relied on the generous time of nearly 2 million volunteers per month. Since COVID-19, volunteer numbers are down, but the need is even higher, as many regular volunteers are in the higher-risk category and are staying home.

More than ever, food banks across the country need volunteer help responding to the increased need.

We can always count on kids to see the issues and set out to make a difference.

1. 13-Year-Old Twin sisters Brooke and Breanna Bennett from Montgomery, Alabama Launch Women in Training Nonprofit

When 12-year-old Brooke Bennett learned a few years ago that there are girls who “spot” on their clothing because they cannot afford sanitary pads, she was very sad. “That’s not right,” Brooke told her twin sister, Breanna. “Every girl needs menstrual items to stay clean and healthy during their period.”

Together, the girls started Women in Training, Inc. (WIT), a youth empowerment organization. WIT’s signature program is the #WITKITS Campaign to help alleviate #PeriodPoverty. The nonprofit also engages girls and nonbinary youth, ages 10 to 18, in community service and social justice.

These kits are canvas bags filled with various hygiene products including pads, tampons, soap, toothbrushes, and more. In addition, each bag contains a handmade bracelet that offers messages of encouragement.

2. 15-Year-Old Hita Gupta from Berwyn, Pennsylvania Connects with Seniors

Growing up, the close bond Hita had with her grandparents prompted her to look for more ways to connect with other seniors. She started out by writing cards and notes for retirement home residents and eventually began volunteering in person at a local nursing home.

Inspired to make an even bigger impact, Hita created her very own nonprofit organization called Brighten A Day when she was just 13 years old. Her organization’s mission is to lift the spirits of anyone who could use some cheer and give them a reason to smile.

Since Brighten A Day was founded in 2018, they have reached tens of thousands of seniors and hospitalized children throughout the world and in many other countries and are continuing to reach more people.

Feeling a deep responsibility to ensure that the seniors did not feel forgotten amidst the chaos of the pandemic, Hita sprung into action and launched a GoFundMe campaign to help buy items for care packages that could give seniors solace. Their project has been covered on major national and international news outlets. Hita has received messages from people all over the globe who have been inspired by her efforts.