Americans across the country will join forces in the coming days for National Volunteer Week, which kicks off on April 23, and in Turlock, there are plenty of local opportunities for residents to support a cause, serve their community and make a difference.
Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, is making an impact in both Turlock and around the world by collecting shoeboxes filled with school supplies, hygiene items and toys and delivering them to children in need worldwide. Last year, Turlock volunteers contributed their time to the Stanislaus County Area Team, collecting shoebox gifts for more than 9,200 children.
“I find it a privilege to do all I can to inspire my community to get involved in this project,” said Heidi Partlow, head of the Stanislaus County Area Team for Operation Christmas Child. “We know that for many of these children, this little shoebox gift is the only gift they have ever received. There is a lot of hurt and darkness in the world, and these gifts bring light and hope.”
Shoeboxes are sent to millions of children in more than 100 countries who are affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine. This year, Operation Christmas Child hopes to send enough gift-filled shoeboxes to reach another 12 million children – a feat unattainable without the more than nine thousand local volunteers who serve year-round across the country.
As the project gears up for another year of gift collections, the Stanislaus County Area Team is seeking new year-round volunteers. To learn more about the volunteer opportunities available in the Turlock area or to apply, call 714-432-7030 or visit samaritanspurse.org/volunteerwithOCC.
Another organization in Turlock in need of volunteers is We Care – the city’s longest running homeless shelter operator. For over a decade, We Care in Turlock has provided transitional and emergency shelter services and supportive resources for low-income and homeless individuals looking to become self-sufficient.
The organization recently received a state grant that will allow its emergency shelter to remain open longer than in previous years, helping the shelter to stay in service until the end of May. Last season, We Care provided 7,097 shelter nights to 217 unduplicated guests, and in addition to the emergency shelter the organization also has transitional and affordable housing programs for individuals and support services to help people leave homelessness behind.
The emergency shelter serves dinner to its guests every evening and encourages local families, businesses and organizations to sign up to serve on the We Care website, wecareturlock.org. Those who volunteer to serve dinner are responsible for providing the dinner as well, and may also prepare breakfast bags for the following morning. Tax-deductible donations are also accepted and can be arranged by calling 209-664-2003.
Also in Turlock is the United Samaritans Foundation, which serves over 30,000 meals a month and is the largest non-profit direct food distributor to the hungry within Stanislaus County. The organization provides clothing for the needy as well and holds emergency food box distributions twice a month.
The organization depends on volunteers to thrive, said volunteer coordinator Esther Mann.
“We utilize volunteers all year round,” she said. “It could be in our warehouse where we receive clothing donations every day or helping to distribute food boxes.”
Around 350 people volunteered at USF last year. The organization sees an influx of volunteers during the school year thanks to both college and high school students looking to earn community service hours, Mann said, but in the summer months volunteers can be harder to come by.
“We would not survive without volunteers because of the amount of donations we receive,” said Mann. “Without their help, it would be really hard to distribute everything. It’s pretty critical that we have volunteers.”
For those who are unable to donate their time but would still like to help, Mann suggests donating clothing or food.
“We’re always in need of men’s clothing, from socks and underwear to shirts and pants, especially pants,” said Mann. “If they can’t help by being here, donations are a tremendous help.”
Those interested in volunteering may contact Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209-668-4853. Donations can be dropped off at USF, 220 S. Broadway St.
The Salvation Army in Turlock also thrives because of its volunteers, and National Volunteer Week is the perfect time to get involved with the organization. The Salvation Army provides services for those living in poverty or are addicted to drugs and alcohol, helps those who are homeless and even provides after school programs for children. The organization raises its money locally and spends it on local services thanks to volunteers throughout the community.
Those looking to help out at The Salvation Army can donate money, goods and clothing to the organization through their website, turlock.salvationarmy.org, or drop off donations at 893 Lander Ave.