Harvesters September 11th Day of Service

WINNER: $25,000 Challenge Recipient

Organizational Involvement
As we have successfully done for previous national days of service (including September 11th , Global Youth Service Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), Harvesters will partner with local faith-based organizations, service and youth clubs, schools and universities, military units (ROTC, active and reserve) and other governmental agencies, and corporations to engage individuals, families and groups as volunteers.  We are one of just a few local nonprofits which accommodate youth volunteers as young as six years old.  We believe our activity will be of particular interest to military and first responder families looking for an opportunity to commemorate the day in a positive way by serving together.  We will invite local organizations that represent or support this demographic such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Red Cross, military relief and assistance organizations, the Wounded Warrior Project, benevolent associations, etc.  As an AmeriCorps State and VISTA grantee, we will also ask other Kansas City and Topeka based AmeriCorps program sites (e.g. Boys and Girls Club, Jump Start, and Youth Volunteer Corp) to join us, not just to volunteer, but also to give members an opportunity to share what inspired them to serve with members of the community they would not ordinarily interact with.

Community Need and Commemoration
Harvesters is the only food bank serving 16 counties in Kansas and 10 counties in Missouri, and is the community’s response to hunger.  We give sustenance and hope to those in need, by engaging community members to donate food, money and time.  We also work toward long-term solutions through nutrition education and advocacy efforts to raise awareness of the challenges faced by those in need. 

Many individuals and families in Harvesters’ 26-county service area continue to suffer the effects of the economic recession.  According to Hunger in America 2010, Harvesters was serving 44% more individuals in 2010 than just five years earlier. Even though the two states where we provide service are located squarely in America’s bread basket, both of those states fall in the bottom third of the country in terms of food security. In response, Harvesters has set a record-breaking goal of distributing 39 million pounds of food in FY2012.

We recognize that the volunteer activities planned for this year’s Day of Service and Remembrance will have a special significance to participants.  One of our goals for the volunteer activity is that it becomes a chance to transform learning about national service and sacrifice into local actions of service to make a positive difference.  As we have done for past 9-11 Days of Service, we will actively engage our team of 15 AmeriCorps State and 3 VISTA members in planning, coordinating and implementing the day’s activities.  They are our local cornerstone of a national movement and we want to highlight their example of dedicated service and commitment to getting things done.

We plan to begin each 2 hour shift on September 11, 2011 with a brief group assembly and include the following:

  • Moment of silence to honor those who were lost on this day 10 years ago;
  • An inspirational message remembering the spirit of unity and compassion in the days afterward;
  • A two to five minute presentation by individual AmeriCorps State or VISTA members on why they chose to make a one-year, full-time service commitment to fight hunger and food insecurity in this community;
  • An overview of the challenges our neighbors face today and how the volunteers on this shift will be making a difference to them – at the same time that other volunteers in other communities are helping their neighbors;
  • Encouraging participants to write their thoughts about service or their remembrances about the day on postcards we will provide.  We hope this reflection activity will be used by families as an inspiration to think about how they can continue to serve.   

Volunteers and Tracking
Harvesters will engage at least 400 volunteers in activities at our Kansas City and Topeka facilities on that day.  All participation is tracked in a proprietary Access database application, which includes volunteers’ demographic information, and the date and time range of their volunteer activity.  Harvesters will provide requested report documenting the total number of volunteers and total time contributed.

Expected Activities and Accomplishments
Individuals, families and volunteer groups who sign up to serve a two-hour shift will be working together to take the food donated by our community and make it quickly and efficiently available to those in need.  At both warehouses, volunteers will sort and box non-perishable donated food items, sort and bag fresh fruits and vegetables, repackage bulk food commodities for distribution, and assemble food kits for school-age children.  During one shift, volunteers can typically process 40,000+ pounds of donated food, pack 600 boxes of commodities, and assemble 1,200 child food kits.  We will also educate volunteers on the issue of hunger in our area, help break down stereotypes about who is in need and why, and facilitate the connection between their community-based service and the Day of Service.

Harvesters will promote participation in the Day of Service and Remembrance to the various groups mentioned earlier, as well as our overall volunteer base.  Harvesters will also plan to garner media attention by issuing media releases. As an organization, Harvesters has very positive relationships with the print and television media in our area and has successfully received media attention at similar volunteer events. 

Since the event is in September, which is Hunger Action Month, the opportunity will also be included in our related press releases, webpages and in a special insert in the Sunday edition of our regional newspaper, the Kansas City Star.

Harvesters will also post the opportunity on the Serve.gov website, as well as promote the day through social media channels and through the KS and MO AmeriCorps and VISTA networks.