In 2018, Father Joe’s Villages helped over 14,500 people experiencing homelessness, providing 1.1 million hot meals, 29,000 showers and over 218,800 nights of short-term shelter in the process.
This work is only possible because of the over 10,000 hard-working volunteers who give their time each year to help Father Joe’s Villages serve San Diegans who are homeless.
“Our success can’t happen without our army of volunteers. Did you know that we need 72 volunteers every day just to serve meals?” said Laura Kojima, Father Joe’s Villages volunteer services program manager. “They really are an essential component of day-to-day life here.”
Volunteers are involved in many of the essential programs Father Joe’s Villages offers to people in need. Helpful community members prep and serve meals in their dining rooms, teach classes in their Employment & Education Center, mentor and tutor children in the Therapeutic Childcare Center, and offer other services through their many programs.
“Our mentor volunteers have love and compassion and want to see these children succeed. Where else can a child find an adult who is completely unrelated to them and is not their teacher, yet has chosen to give up their own personal time to show a child they are important to the world?” said Jennifer Ryan, therapeutic childcare program manager, about the mentorship program.
Volunteers with specialized experience can often find opportunities to use their skills to help their neighbors in need. For instance, licensed cosmetologists can cut hair in Village Clips, a hair salon that recently opened on Father Joe’s Villages East Village campus.
Other volunteers, like the Windansea Surf Club and Danny Martinez, offer meaningful experiences to people living at Father Joe’s Villages. The La Jolla WindanSea Surf Club has hosted an annual educational surf event for more than 30 years to giving children experiencing homelessness a day of relaxation and fun.
“The whole day is dedicated to letting kids be kids. And these kids don’t have the opportunity to be kids, like most kids do,” said club president Bill Fitzmaurice.
Danny Martinez, on the other hand, funds and gathers volunteers to host an annual Thanksgiving turkey dinner for hungry neighbors in need each year. Last year, during the event where he donated more than 1,000 pounds of turkey and personally served food to 600 people with his crew of volunteers, Martinez said: “I see a lot of love and a lot of kids having a good time.”
Through the far-reaching effects of their diverse work, it is estimated that volunteers save the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. For example, the 212 members of Father Joe’s Villages Ladies Guild, an organization dedicated to fundraising and volunteering to support services for families and children, volunteered 14,634 hours in 2018 alone, saving Father Joe’s Villages close to $400,000.
In addition to aiding Father Joe’s Villages’ mission to end homelessness, volunteering offers benefits to the individual volunteer as well. Studies show that volunteering can provide a sense of purpose, which can increase life satisfaction and have a positive effect on physical and mental health. Additionally, for more regular volunteers, it can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and increase life expectancy.
However, President and CEO, Deacon Jim Vargas, knows that most volunteers aren’t in it for the personal benefits. “Many of our volunteers don’t do it for the accolades. They don’t do it for the applause. They volunteer each and every day, each and every week, to serve those who are vulnerable and those who are suffering,” he said.
Father Joe’s Villages accepts all types of volunteers and volunteer groups: individuals, families, children over 10 years old, religious organizations, community groups, military groups, corporations, local businesses and more.
• Interested in volunteering? Learn more at neighbor.org/volunteer and fill out an online interest form.
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