By Susan Payne
Angela Echeverria, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s associate director of facilities, smiled from ear to ear when volunteer Alex Walker unexpectedly walked up to the Center’s driveway to volunteer for the day.
In recent weeks, Echeverria has seen a dwindling number of volunteers available to help out at the pantry, LGBT News Now reported.
“I love helping my community in any way I can,” Walker told LGBT News Now. “People still need help especially now that food prices are rising. It’s very eye-opening to see the world outside of my own bubble and what’s happening in everybody else’s life. It’s very rewarding and fulfilling.”
Pride Pantry was launched during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide community members struggling with food insecurity with fresh produce and dry goods.
On Thursdays, volunteers and staff fill bags and boxes for distribution on Fridays. Volunteers bring food to cars that come through the driveway, or clients can pick it up themselves.
Walker volunteered in special events pre-pandemic, but now does the pantry due to the pandemic. As the pandemic lightens and workplaces are bringing back in-office workers, volunteer schedules are becoming less flexible, LGBT News Now said.
“We are dependent on our volunteers,” Pervical Pandy told LGBT News Now, the Center’s volunteer resources program manager. “We understand that there is a return to work, but we are still looking for people to carve out time. This is a service we know is necessary and it is vital that we have the helping hands of the community to sustain it.”
Each month, more than 2,000 boxes and bags of food are distributed from the Hollywood pantry location, which supplies two other locations with food to distribute, Mi Centro in Bayle Heights and Center South in south LA near Leimert Park.
Rani DeMesme-Anders, the Center’s director of community engagement, told LGBT News Now that more than one in four LGBTQ adults struggle with food insecurity, and that has only amplified during the pandemic.
“As our volunteers are returning to work, we absolutely want to remind our larger community that hunger is not ceasing,” DeMesme-Anders said. “If you find yourself in the position where you’ve got some time, please know your impact will be immediate.”
In addition to the pantry, the Center’s Hello Club needs volunteers to call senior clients and connect them with case management for grocery essentials and delivery services, LGBT News Now said.
“Much like our other COVID-specific programs, we have seen a decline in participation and volunteer availability,” says DeMesme-Anders. “We’re hoping to increase the awareness of the opportunities to support these types of programs.”
Hello Club volunteers need access to a computer, internet and phone to complete their duties. A 40-minute virtual training is done before volunteering. Contact information is masked when they make calls to the seniors.
The time commitment is flexible as calls can be made between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Many times, the volunteers sit and listen to the senior make conversation, LGBT News Now said.
“We still have a large number of senior members who are actively depending on Center community members to help break that isolation,” DeMesme-Anders told LGBT News Now. “Personal touchpoint from a volunteer and LGBT community member to a senior directly really makes all the difference in the world.”
To volunteer for the Pride Pantry or Hello Club, or the Center in general, visit lalgbtcenter.org/volunteer.