Resident Volunteers: Making Meals Happen
Serving three meals a day, 365 days a year is a lot of work. It’s work that the Poverello Center’s two Food Programs employees can’t do alone.
In what the Missoulian referred to as “a daily miracle,” Resident Volunteers–or RVs, as we have come to call them at the Pov–play a major role in making sure that the kitchen is able to serve up to 600 meals a day.
“RVs are so important around here,” Jared Bell, Poverello Food Programs Manager, said. “They literally make meals happen.”
RV Joel Thornton cooks, cleans, does the dishes and helps to unload the Food Rescue Truck when it returns to the Pov from its daily grocery rescue route. Although RVs are required to put in up to 20 hours per week–for which they are paid nothing–many of them like Joel put in a lot more.
The RV program began in late 2015 shortly after the Pov’s relocation to its current facility. In addition to on-the-job training, RVs are compensated with free laundry access, a waived locker rental fee, and a guaranteed spot in a bunk in the dorm.
“For many, the first step to sustainable housing is finding employment in a highly competitive market,” Zac Mauldin, the Poverello Center’s Volunteer Coordinator, said. “The Resident Volunteer program provides vocational training and skill building opportunities that lead to long-term employment.”
Joel says that he’s had temporary employment success though the Pov via referrals from desk staff who have seen his work ethic first hand and through other residents.
“Over the past six months, it’s been somewhat difficult for me to get a job,” Joel said. “There are barriers in the community that need to be reviewed.”
Many employers turn people experiencing homelesseness away when they find out they have a felony on their record.
Joel believes that employment opportunities should be prevalent for the homeless community, not protected from them.
RVs do a lot more than work in the kitchen. Some help Mort Olson, the Pov’s Maintenance Technician, with building repairs and keeping up appearances in the surrounding neighborhood.
Others, like Larry (not his real name), are responsible for doing the Pov’s house laundry. Larry says he’s grateful for the RV program because it gives him something helpful to do.
“I don’t like just sitting on my ass,” Larry said. “I’ve always been a do’er. For me, being an RV has been a God-send.”
Kara (also not her real name), who volunteers in numerous capacities at the Pov, said that being an RV motivates her to go back to work.
“I wasn’t the best person before I came here,” she said. “I worked, but not in a way that’s acceptable to the community if you know what I mean.”
She said her commitment to the RV position helps her get back into a more disciplined work regimen.
Winter Shelter: A Letter from the Executive Director
The Poverello Center has been working for the past year with the City of Missoula, Missoula County, the Salvation Army, and several other community groups to make a plan for how to provide shelter to all who need it during the cold weather months. As an important supporter of the Poverello Center, I wanted to give you an inside look at our plans for winter shelter.
The City of Missoula has asked the Poverello Center and the Salvation Army to partner in setting up a winter shelter facility. This shelter will be housed at the Salvation Army from November 1st, 2019 through March 31st, 2020, with the Poverello Center managing the shelter. The City of Missoula, Missoula County, and other community groups will be providing the funding to the Poverello Center and Salvation Army to operate this winter shelter.
Over the winter, the Poverello Center will continue to house its winter maximum of 175 guests each night. Anyone above that number will be allowed to spend the night at the winter shelter housed at the Salvation Army and staffed by the Poverello Center. During the day, people experiencing homelessness will be able to keep warm and access day-time services at the Poverello Center.
One significant policy change the Poverello Center will be making is to have a behavior-based policy for accessing services at the Poverello Center instead of a policy that is focused on someone’s sobriety. Poverello guests will need to continue to be safe, respectful and kind in our space but will not be turned away if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Using a behavior-based policy is considered a best practice for homeless shelters across the country. Multiple studies have shown that lowering barriers to accessing services results in more people being able to make the transition from being homeless to gaining secure housing, as well as make progress on their substance use issues.
In Missoula, we want to make sure everyone survives the very cold winters we have here. The reality is that many individuals can adhere to our behavior policies while also being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We want to make sure everyone has a safe, warm place regardless of their struggle with sobriety.
The City of Missoula, Missoula County, St Patrick’s Hospital, and Community Medical Center have pledged financial support for this winter shelter plan and are working to secure the final funding that will be needed. These funds will be used to hire extra staffing during the day at the Pov as well as the staff for the secondary location at the Salvation Army. It will also be used to provide transportation between the Poverello Center and the Salvation Army each day.
I am grateful to the City of Missoula, Missoula County, St Patrick’s Hospital, and Community Medical Center for taking the lead on funding this effort so that we do not have to worry about that part of the plan. That said, managing a second shelter will put a strain on the Pov, and we will see increased use of our day services including our soup kitchen and food pantry.
I am also grateful to all our supporters like yourself who give of your time, talent and resources to make sure we can provide food, shelter, help and hope to all Missoulians in need. Thank you for being there for us.
Volunteer Spotlight: Kathy McCaughey
Kathy McCaughey is a retired seventh grade Montana History teacher. She retired with her husband and for several years they sought out as much enjoyment as possible. They developed new hobbies and life was exclusively all about them.
One day, Kathy awoke and realized that there’s more to life than “me, me, me and my enjoyment.” She decided to change that.
Eight years ago, when Kathy decided to sign up for a new volunteer orientation and training, she didn’t know anyone at the Pov, nor did she know much about the organization. She was a little intimidated, but after a few volunteer shifts serving food, she realized that her fear was unjustified.
She recalls that it was the people in building eating lunch who made her feel welcomed and appreciated by asking her how her day was going and thanking her for volunteering.
“Volunteering has become who I am, and who I want to be,” Kathy said. “I get to meet interesting and nice people regularly.”
Kathy has made many friends with people after serving meals all these years. She finds it rewarding to share and receive updates from people as they pass through the food line.
She remembers a game she had going with a person who ate lunch at the Pov weekly; he would jokingly call the food roadkill. He’d ask her, “What’s for lunch today?”
Her response: “Looks like roadkill-chicken. Oh, and these vegetables were run over a few times.” They’d laugh.
She’s also seen guests change in appearance, mindset, and health–many for the better–as they ate regular meals.
The lives of people experiencing homelessness or poverty fluctuates greatly from day-to-day.
“My experience at the Pov has taught me about grace, and helped cultivate an awareness of others’ unique circumstances,” Kathy said. “These qualities have translated to many areas of my life.”
Kathy wants to see more community integration with the Pov and thinks that it should not be seen as a bubble not to be engaged with. We need to participate in the lives of others and seek empathy for our most vulnerable neighbors.
“In the future, I hope the community can view the Pov as a part of the city instead of apart from it,” Kathy said.
Volunteering is a great way to be a part of the process and help others in the community.
“Volunteering is extremely rewarding,” she said. “It expands the person you are and develops a richer outlook on the world. And it’s good fun.”
Pov Unveils User-Friendly Volunteer Portal
Volunteers are the heartbeat of the Poverello—a fact that the Pov’s Volunteer Coordinator Zac Mauldin is but all too familiar with.
The Volunteer Portal, which aims to build stronger relationships between the Pov and its volunteers, is an efficient new way for the Pov to make certain that both organizational and volunteer needs are met.
“We want to make sure that our volunteers know that they are valued and appreciated,” Zac said. “The Volunteer Portal helps us to ensure we do that.”
Via the Portal, individuals are now able to sign up digitally for daily volunteer positions.
Volunteers can view the volunteer policies and handbook, and the Pov will have a secure system to store volunteer data, such as hours, reports and the impact of volunteers on the organization.
“Last year, volunteers saved over $200,000 in financial resources for the Pov,” Zac said. “The idea behind the portal is to make that number go up.”
While Zac is excited about having the Portal go live, he says there’s still a lot of work to do–and the sky’s the limit.
The next phase for the Portal is making it so that volunteer groups–such as school, corporate and church affiliated groups–can sign up for day-to-day volunteer activities.
In the future, onboarding and training opportunities could be emailed through the portal, including training videos over topics such as food safety.
Zac, who has experience in launching a much larger scale volunteer management system with Meals on Wheels People in Portland, said he can not stress enough how essential volunteers are to an organization, and how many nonprofits are completely dependent on volunteers donating their time and energy.
“A lot of people don’t know that the Board of Directors for a nonprofit are often made up of volunteers,” he said. “Without volunteers on all levels of an organization, non profits simply wouldn’t exist.”
For more information about volunteering at the Pov and to access the Volunteer Portal, visit our website at thepoverellocenter.org/volunteer, or go to our website and click on the volunteer tab.
Cheesy Potatoes á la Improv
Excessively cheesy. Irresistibly greasy. Loaded with spiced gravy, bacon, the odd sausage and an occasional frank, the Pov’s perfectly steamed-then-baked Cheesy Potatoes offer midweek comfort food to rival any restaurant in town.
“Everybody around here gets real excited for cheesy potato day,” said Jared Bell, Poverello Center Food Programs Manager. “Me included.”
The Pov’s Wednesday lunch-time tradition began almost two years ago when a volunteer (who wished to remain anonymous) first began helping out in the kitchen.
But the cheesy goodness doesn’t come without a coordinated team effort.
Kitchen volunteers, many of which are guests of the Pov, dish up 200-300 meals at lunch time alone. Prep begins at 7:30 am by slicing up 50 pounds of ‘taters and thick discs of cheese. It takes about 5 hours to prepare four pans for the Pov’s 11:30 lunch time.
“We put bacon, sausage, sometimes hot dogs, mozzarella. I like it when we have yellow cheese,” the dish’s anonymous architect said. “Anything I can get my hands on, I use.”
The ‘tater team layers steamed potatoes, peppers, and onions beneath sliced cheese and a layer of meat. A spiced gravy caps it off, and into the oven it goes.
“In the gravy, I put flour, bacon grease, butter, and real cream if they’ve got it,” he said. “I put some spices in there, too.”
The fun of the recipe is that it’s never quite the same dish twice. The Pov relies on donations from local grocers and other food vendors, in addition to in-kind donations from the community that help buy staple food items that aren’t often donated.
Every week, the Pov’s Food Rescue Truck brings back an eclectic bounty from Missoula’s grocery stores and other food outlets. This is food that is still edible, but for whatever reason, stores are unable to sell. Last year alone, the truck rescued 685,271 pounds of food; an estimated value of nearly $1 million.
The Poverello Center is incredibly grateful for the in-kind donations we receive. To make it even easier to give, we have created a new user-friendly donation kiosk located to the right of the front desk upon entering the center. This system will make it easier to donate and will benefit the center’s fundraising strategy. Thanks for your support!
For Thanksgiving & Christmas Day Dinner:
French Fried Onions
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Canned Green Beans
Priority Winter Needs:
Spoons & forks!!!
Looking for a group giving activity?
Build and Donate Emergency Kits
The Pov’s Homeless Outreach Team designed Emergency Kits for individuals who, for whatever reason, do not want to or are unable to access services at the Pov. These individuals are often the most vulnerable in our community. Contents may include a hat, socks, snacks, hand warmers, a blanket, a bottle of water, the HOT contact card, a list of cheap motels, and wet wipes, all in a reusable bag. Thank you for your support!