July 15, 2010

Volunteering at the Co-op

For the last couple weeks I have been volunteering on co-op day (Saturday). Each site is run by volunteers. The only "payment" received is by the site coordinators who don't have to purchase their basket for the week. While that is awesome in and of itself, that isn't much taking into account that there are contributor lists to be printed and other miscellaneous supplies to be purchased that are not reimbursed not to mention the time factor. I really appreciate the coordinators at every site especially the sites I have visited to pick up my basket for the week. I had previously thought of volunteering at my sister's local site (25ish minutes from my home) as that is where I would get my basket because I was always too slow getting online to get my local site (2 minutes from my home). When I mentioned volunteering to Cooking W. she said that oft times she has gone to volunteer and they didn't need her. So, I never did volunteer at her local site.

Now I am finally on top of things (this thing anyway) and I have been getting my local site each week so I inquired about the volunteer situation and was pleased to hear that they could always use help especially during the summer months when many families vacation. (We never vacation. My poor children don’t really get to go anywhere. I am guessing it sort of sucks to be the children of homebodies. We are really going to have to make up for that with some fun vacation in the next year or two.) Anyway, back to the co-op.

Our site volunteer time is 6:45 a.m. To most this is a god-awful hour but to me it isn't so bad especially since I do have the opportunity to sleep in a tiny bit. (I find it a little sad that I consider 6:00 a.m. "sleeping in".) The first thing we do is unload the boxes of fruits and vegetables from the truck. (A semi-truck full of all of the fruits and vegetables for each site travels from site to site. Our site is the last or second-to-the last site--imagine how early some of those other site volunteers have to be at those earlier drop offs.)

Once the truck is unloaded we wipe out the baskets with Clorox wipes and place them in columns. We have 96 “baskets” at our site. A “basket” consists of one fruit and one vegetable container (literally a small round laundry basket). So we have 192 baskets to wipe and place. One week we did 4 groups of 24 and another we did 4 groups of 20 and 1 group of 16 (I know you really care).

After placing the baskets we start dividing the fruits and vegetables. The coordinator has a print out that lists each item and the quantity that should be distributed in each basket. We start with the heavy items which has included a cantaloupe for like the past five weeks. I sure hope it is almost the end of those. (Bug and I are the only ones that like cantaloupe in my house and Bug has been at his mom’s a lot this summer. I gave the one from two weeks ago to Jabba last week and the one from last week is still on my counter. Worst comes to worst, the chickens will really enjoy it.) On average we have six fruit items and six vegetable items that are distributed. As we are distributing the fruits and vegetables we will pull any spoiled/bruised/icky looking items and the coordinator will report those things to the co-op powers that be. Once the stated quantity has been distributed the extras of each item are set aside.

fruits & vegetables

When we are finished distributing everything each volunteer is able to take one large or two small items from the extras. After all the volunteers have chosen their item the extra fruits and vegetables are distributed among the baskets. For example we had extra corn, yellow squash, nectarines, and bananas. We start at one end of the baskets with the corn distributing one ear per basket. Once the corn is gone (say in the second column) we start from that point adding a yellow squash to the next basket and so on with the nectarines and bananas. So a basket in the first column may have an extra ear of corn a basket in the fourth column could have an extra banana. Any extra items that can’t be used to get an extra in every basket are donated to the local fire station.

While distributing the fruits and vegetables we end up with a lot (A LOT) of empty boxes which are broken down and either recycled (cardboard) or thrown away (waxed cardboard). Some boxes are left in tact for contributors to use for their baskets if they did not bring something with them.

By this time contributors are arriving to pick up their baskets and a line is forming. The volunteers get to sign for and pick up their baskets first. At this point some of the volunteers leave. Those volunteers that stay help the contributors pick up their baskets. Since there have been a few instances of “missing” items from baskets (blackberries) the coordinator has a volunteer for each column and that volunteer will pull the baskets forward (away from easy access to the other baskets) for the contributor to then place their items in their own basket/bag/box to take home with them. The baskets are then stacked to the side and when all is said and done the coordinator stores them until the next week when it all begins again.

I was going to be the backup site coordinator last week and had taken all the baskets home but then it ended up the site coordinator was able to be there. I am now the backup, backup, backup, backup site coordinator. So if the site coordinator, the co-site coordinator, backup site coordinator 1, and backup site coordinator 2 are going to be gone. . . I will be the one large and in charge (insert evil laugh here).

laundry basket

I had 192 of these in my garage. (You cannot imagine how difficult it was to find a simple photo of an EMPTY basket. Most of the photos had a baby or a cat in them.)

When she called to inform me of the change she offered to come get the baskets but I told her I would keep them and bring them with me. I planned on arriving 15 minutes early figuring I could get the baskets unloaded and start wiping them out but when I arrived at the site, the truck was there and halfway unloaded. (I guess we have a really great driver because other sites have complained about their driver not getting out of the truck or the driver being rude. Not only does ours get out of the truck but he also helps unload.) I forgot to mention there are a couple of young men that follow the truck around to the various sites and help pull the pallets for the site. Normally they remain on the truck bringing pallets from the back of the trailer to the front or is it from the front to the back. . .hmmm, we will go with from the inner depths to the opening. So, normally the two young men remain on the truck bringing pallets from the inner depths to the opening and place the boxes from the pallets on the floor right by the opening for the volunteers to grab and place where they can be easily distributed; however, that fine Saturday they were going above and beyond by unloading the truck too! I jumped right in helping them unload and we had everything off the truck before anyone else arrived. The site coordinator and co-site coordinator were the next to arrive which was good because they had all the paperwork. They finished with the driver and then we carried on as stated above.

For those few that have remained through this LONG, no SCP (free stock photos from online don’t count) post I want to throw it out there that if you take part in a co-op such as this (or even this very co-op). . . offer to volunteer. Even if you can’t help the entire time, unloading the truck and distributing the food is loads (literally) easier when you have many versus few volunteers. Last week we were down about four volunteers from the week before and it was evident. One of the volunteers that came to help hadn’t even ordered a basket for the week. (I can’t say that I am THAT good of a person.)

Also for those few remaining, you can blame this lackluster post on KLB. I truly believe she would have cried had I not reappeared today (I just did not want that burden on my conscience) and this is the post that resulted. I really have been working on data entry almost every spare second at home so I didn’t have time to build up any extra posts. I had time to type in a couple post titles to help remind myself of things I could write about and this is the first in the list. Had I more time or even another idea that I could write about as easily, this post might have never been but again, I did NOT want tears on my conscience.

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