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VOL. 130 | NO. 232 | Monday, November 30, 2015

Volunteer Odyssey Launches Holiday Pledge

By Madeline Faber

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With the holidays on everyone’s mind, December is one of the few times of year when organizations working against hunger and homelessness get the support they need.

Sarah Petschonek, director of Volunteer Odyssey, wants to keep that generosity front-and-center all year round.

Volunteer Odyssey has launched a holiday pledge initiative to encourage people to volunteer year-round at Memphis-area nonprofits such as Room in the Inn. RITI organizes overnight stays for the homeless in congregations citywide. 

(Room in the Inn Memphis)

“Most nonprofits are desperate for volunteers during the year,” she said. “The only time they’re overwhelmed with volunteers is on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are really trying to help those nonprofits spread out that effort.”

Last week, she launched a holiday pledge initiative where people can sign up to volunteer for at least four hours during 2016. Volunteer Odyssey will email a reminder with opportunities to give in designated month.

Spots fill up fast during the holidays for well-known initiatives. MIFA delivered meals to over 300 homeless seniors and the city of Memphis served nearly 900 people at the Memphis Cook Convention Center for its annual Thanksgiving dinner.

If volunteer opportunities have all been claimed, Petschonek encourages people to help out at home by filling “survival kits” with snacks and hygienic items to give away to people in need.

She also encourages people to check out lesser-known nonprofits like Room in the Inn and Urban Bicycle Food Ministry.

“There are so many things out there that people may not have heard of before or that they didn’t know they could volunteer in that way,” she added.

Room in the Inn organizes overnight stays for the homeless in congregations across the city. Volunteers pick up guests from the RITI headquarters at the former Carpenter’s Union building Downtown and drive the homeless to churches, which have agreed to provide a meal and a place to sleep for the night.

“It’s happening every single night and in all different parts of the city. People can get involved in the morning or evening,” Petschonek said.

Over Thanksgiving, St. George’s Episcopal Church cooked a Thanksgiving meal and served guests at Germantown Methodist Church, and St. Louis Catholic Church housed guests at Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Altogether, 26 guests had a memorable Thanksgiving.

“When the congregations realized that their night to host fell on Thanksgiving, many were stressed about finding enough volunteers,” said director Lisa Anderson. “But when I recently spoke to St. Louis Catholic Church, they said that they had many people volunteer because it’s a special day and so many people want to do it as a family.”

Check out volunteerodyssey.com/holidaypledge to take the Volunteer Odyssey holiday pledge.

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