Organizations limiting number of holiday volunteers during pandemic

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – During the holidays, soup kitchens, food banks, animal shelters, and other organizations tend to be packed with volunteers. It’s a popular way to give back to the community. But this year, some places are taking precautions and limiting the number of volunteers utilized to keep people safe.

“We’re still trying to be careful though about how many volunteers we allow in the building,” said Brenda Shaw, the Chief Development Officer for the Lowcountry Food Bank.

The food bank is allowing around 15 volunteers per shift instead of the usual 40. Two to three days a week, Quinn Delaney is one of the 15.

“I was just looking for something to do to give back to the community and I found this,” said Delaney.

He’s been volunteering at the food bank for about a year and in that year he’s watched the need for food assistance skyrocket.

“We’ve had to ramp up production on our disaster relief boxes like crazy,” said Delaney.

“The absolute need has increased here at the food bank at our on-site pantry,” said Shaw. “We’ve seen more than a 450% increase in those who come through the front door who need food assistance.”

The Lowcountry Food Bank isn’t the only organization seeing an increased need for assistance this holiday season. Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach is also seeing more need in the Lowcountry.

“It’s increased exponentially,” said Ryan Vrba, the Director of Outreach and Education at Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach. “The needs we have seen, the number of people coming through our doors.”

Our Lady of Mercy is working on bringing back more volunteers this holiday season to meet that need.

“We’re not back completely in full swing, but just taking baby steps,” said Vrba.

One of the biggest needs within the organization is volunteers to assist within the free dental clinic. According to Vrba, many of the volunteers who assisted at the clinic before the pandemic are retired and decided to step back for their own safety and health.

Both the Lowcountry Food Bank and Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach have in-person volunteer opportunities as well as a list of other ways you can help including hosting a food drive, donating supplies, and making a monetary donation.

For more information, click here to visit the Lowcountry Food Bank’s website and click here for Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach.

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