Despite COVID-19 regulations and guidelines, volunteering at the Men’s Share House in downtown Vancouver hasn’t slowed down. In fact, as many people’s needs have increased, so too have volunteers and support.
Holley Walhood, food service coordinator for the house since 2008, noted that prior to the pandemic, the majority of regular volunteers were older. Once quarantine was implemented last March, a lot of them dropped out within a couple of days.
Walhood immediately contacted her supervisor, who got back to her within hours with a game plan: temporarily cancel volunteers and instead utilize the younger staff from other facilities in Share’s housing program.
Community relations director for Share House, Jessica Lightheart, noted that getting out word of the increased need to their donor base was a challenge.
“We were also asking for financial support during a time when so many of our regular supporters were also struggling financially,” said Lightheart.
Other regulations that brought significant change to the organization were the increased precautions in the meal-prep sanitization, and the switch from in-door dining to to-go only.
“We suddenly overnight went from cooking hot meals and serving them in here, to to-go meals, and that just took a little bit of time,” said Walhood.
Jeremiah Melendrez, assistant food service coordinator, said that the streets surrounding the house are more crowded than usual for the time being.
“The government has allowed them to camp here cause a lot of their camping sites that they usually go to are closed,” Melendrez said.
Reintroducing volunteers, however, has brought a renewed abundance of help. Melendrez said that a lot of people who were forced to leave their jobs stayed active by volunteering with the Share House.
Lightheart also said that quarantine gave rise to increased positive responses towards printed newsletters and appeal letters, which had previously struggled.
“It is reassuring that we can always count on our community, which is full of individuals, businesses, faith-based communities, nonprofit organizations, volunteers, school groups and civic organizations who are bonded by the Clark County spirit in support of one another,” said Lightheart.
Share House provides free, daily meals for the homeless and those with low-income. They are located at 1115 W 13th St. in downtown Vancouver.