Volunteer Voices is written by Sarah Katz-Hyman. Sarah is a student at University of Maryland and lives in College Park. She previously wrote about Back on My Feet.
This column focuses on service organizations in D.C. – what they do, their history and how you can volunteer. If you know of any service agencies in D.C. or have a place where you regularly volunteer, please share your experiences in the comments below and those agencies could be featured in this column.
This week’s organization is Food For All-DC located at the Universalist National Memorial Church at 1810 16th Street, NW.
What They Do:
Food For All-DC (FFA) is a service organization that provides meals and delivers groceries to homebound people around D.C. FFA is one of two Food For All programs in the country; the other is based in Los Angeles. FFA has a registry of clients that they receive from other service organizations or which they get directly from clients’ inquiries. Each week members of the organization out and buy the food and items their clients need in preparation for delivery each Saturday. Through a grant from the DC Emergency Food Program, FFA buys most of the food from the Capital Area Food Bank. Each week they deliver to 50-60 households, serving over 200 people in all four quadrants of the city. Every Saturday a group of volunteers meets at the Universalist National Memorial Church on 16th Street, a little before 9 a.m., to start packing up the food. By 9:30 all the boxes are packed and are delivered around the city by volunteers. Typically all the delivereries are completed by noon. Food For All’s clients include people who are homebound for a variety of reasons, including physical and mental disabilities, low income or single mothers.
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FFA was founded by Peter Sage in affiliation with a larger organization, Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT) in 1984. AMURT is an international community development and relief organization originally founded to help the needs of victims of natural disasters in Third World countries. Initially, FFA just started packing up groceries, but has since grown to a more mobilized volunteer collective. FFA is all volunteer-run. Their deliveries are free for their clients thanks to a grant from the DC Emergency Food Program. Some clients receive food every week, some every other week, and still others receive deliveries on a monthly basis. The clients can stay on the list as long as they are in need of FFA’s services. There is a chance that the grant from which they receive most of their funding could get cut as much as 50% this year, so there is a possibility they may not be able to continue this important service.
How You Can Volunteer:
The primary way to volunteer with FFA is to simply show up before 9 a.m. on a Saturday at the Church. You do not need to call or e-mail ahead, although if you want to bring a group they do appreciate a “heads up”, and you can send an e-mail to [email protected] to let them know. Once you get to the church you can join in a variety of tasks on an assembly line they set up to pack boxes efficiently. There is no formal training or orientation; individuals just have to sign a waiver when they come. Children under 18 years of age are asked to participate with an adult. If Saturdays aren’t the best time, FFA is always looking for people to help with grant writing, food drives, fundraising, and collecting boxes. For more information visit their website (http://www.foodforalldc.org/