In a town like Sarasota, which is heavily affected by tourism season, when the summer lull comes along, local businesses are not the only ones to feel the change — nonprofit organizations that rely on volunteers also experience the effects of the offseason.
“Most of our volunteers are retirees,” says Terry McGannon, executive director of Meals on Wheels Sarasota. “Come Easter, a lot of them go back to their snowbird homes up north. We see a big gap in our drivers, and if we don’t have our volunteers, we’re in a big bind.”
Meals on Wheels Sarasota, a nonprofit organization formed in 1972, delivers an average of more than 500 hot meals each day to Sarasota County residents who qualify as in need. According to McGannon, this need can be physical, psychological or financial. The main requirement is that the person be in need of food for one reason or another.
The organization relies heavily on its volunteers. On any given day, only five of the 43 people in its downtown location are paid employees. They work in the kitchen, assisting the chef in preparing hot meals before packing them up and giving them to volunteer drivers, who deliver them on their respective assigned routes.
With summer approaching, McGannon hopes to recruit more volunteer drivers. He especially hopes to appeal to younger, high school-aged volunteers.
“High school students in Florida need to earn volunteer service hours already,” he says. “If they volunteered here over the summer, which would only be from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. every morning, they’d have all their hours done. When they first start, it’s a job to them. But when that route becomes theirs, and those people become their people, they’re hooked. They’ve found a problem in their community they can help solve.”
McGannon, who brought 25 years of experience in banking to the position, says he enjoys applying his business knowledge to the nonprofit sector to help people in need within his own community.
“We all have our day-to-day job stuff. You have to deal with stress and deadlines — that comes with any job. But when you can sit there at the end of the day knowing you’ve done some real good, helped your community and helped someone take a step forward, you really can’t beat it.”
For more information about volunteering, visit You'd Be Perfect For This.
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