What's a Volunteer to Do??

As a long-time Visitor Information Specialist with the Smithsonian, my weekly schedule suddenly opened up in March when all our museums were shut down. I sorely missed going to the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery building every Thursday afternoon (and other museums as needed).

Since none of us really expected the lockdown to last “forever” I didn’t look for something else to do initially. However after a couple of months of cleaning out files and sorting boxes in the basement, I discovered that the Capital Area Food Bank was in need of volunteers to pack emergency food boxes – cartons containing about 20 pounds of canned and dry goods designed to aid a family of 4 for 3 – 4 days: tuna, mac & cheese, juice, UHT milk, soup, beans, rice, canned fruit and vegetables, etc. These are then distributed through their partner organizations in the DMV to anyone who asks.

Two to three times a week since the beginning of June I have been sorting donations of mostly usable items, training other volunteers, assembling empty boxes, opening and hefting cases of whatever, and, working on a conveyor belt assembly line, packing thousands of boxes (we do 900 – 1,300 boxes per 3-hour shift). It’s been an extraordinary experience – not only something to do with my time and build up my core strength, but more importantly the opportunity to help those suffering during this extraordinary time. I look forward to the day when the Food Bank no longer needs to create these boxes, and when the Smithsonian museums open completely so I can go back to greeting and assisting visitors – but maybe pitch in at the Food Bank as well.