Montgomery County Volunteer Center boasts hundreds of volunteer opportunities from over 600 agencies and nonprofits, many of them available to Richard Montgomery High School students. Students may pick from a variety of local organizations and agencies seeking volunteer help, like Manna Food Center, Shepherd’s Table, Inc., and the Cantonese School of Greater Washington. Each benefits the community in its own way, and the Volunteer Center gives students the ability to choose the program that best suits their interests.
Manna Food Center is one example of a nonprofit organization that offers ways for students to volunteer. Volunteers make a huge impact on Manna Food Center as a whole: According to Katie Sayago, volunteer manager, “Manna relies heavily on volunteer support. We could not do it without their help. [In fact,] volunteers donated over 70,000 hours of time last year! That is the equivalent of 35 full-time employees.” Manna volunteers pack boxes of food, assist in the food drives and community outreach events, and harvest produce.
Manna offers many options for students to help out. Weekends and nights are often reserved for student groups with their adult leaders, and families with children as young as seven can go to the warehouse and participate in the box-packing events. Volunteers can also advocate for Manna and all that it does for over 80,000 Montgomery County residents with food insecurity. “Volunteers are crucial not only to our day-to-day work but also to securing the food and funding that we need to serve our clients,” Sayago said.
Sayago understands the benefits that students themselves get from volunteering as well: “Volunteering is a rewarding experience wherever you decide to donate your time. Getting involved with issues you are passionate about is an important aspect to life. It’s good for your personal, social, and career development,” she said. Undeniably, Montgomery County has a diverse array of volunteer opportunities available. The online database provided by the Montgomery County Volunteer Center allows students to find volunteer opportunities that are most appealing to them.
For two hours every Sunday Sophomore Angel Chen volunteers at the Cantonese School of Greater Washington (C.S.G.W.) at Richie Park Elementary School. “I worked as an assistant teacher, and encouraged the kids to focus while helping them with topics that they struggled with. It was a very rewarding experience, especially developing relationships with the students and watching them connect with their Chinese roots,” Chen explained.
Sophomore Salla Seiriö does not only volunteer to get the 75 Service Learning (SSL) hours that are required to graduate. “Through volunteering you learn how even the smallest things can help someone else so much and make the biggest difference [in their lives],” Seiriö explained. “I love volunteering because it broadens my view on life, specifically how fortunate I am.” Chen agreed, “After everything the community has provided me, I feel like I have the responsibility to give back and make it a better place.”
In the end, whether a student volunteers at a soup kitchen or senior center, at a Chinese immersion program or Manna Food Center, they are benefiting their community. There are a variety of ways to become involved in volunteer activities in Montgomery County, and it is definitely rewarding to do so.