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KAIR Struggles with Volunteer Shortage

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A local food pantry is struggling with a current volunteer shortage.

Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources, or KAIR, is searching for volunteers. KAIR’s Executive Director, Cathy Somes, says the volunteers are essential to their mission.

“We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers. We just need a few more to take some of the pressure off the ones that have been here through COVID-19,” Somes explains.

The folks at KAIR have found themselves in a unique struggle: They’re short on volunteers and have found more people needing their help. Volunteer Cyndy Martindale says she’s been working everywhere.

“Pretty much been working where I’ve been needed and with us not having very many people. It’s everywhere,” Martindale chuckles.

Before the pandemic, KAIR had 22 volunteers attending their food pantry and thrift store. Since the start of the pandemic they’ve added their community meal site, but have dropped to 15 volunteers. 

“We still have to move the food and that takes a lot of hands to do that. When you have fewer people that can help you do that, it takes us much longer to unload food trucks,” Somes says.

Not only have they seen a drop in volunteers, but in the past six months they’ve helped out an extra 70 people. They say they expect that number to continue to climb.

“The shifts are typically 5 hours, but some of my volunteers are working seven or eight hours just to be able to provide to the families that need it the most,” Somes conveys.

Volunteers, Martindale and Curtis Bodrow say the past few months have been tough. However, they say it hasn’t taken away from their drive to help the community. 

“KAIR is for me, to help people. When I’m here [I help] people like my boss, my boss and Cindy. And Grandma too,” Bodrow smiles.

KAIR is not alone in their search for more volunteers as food pantries across the region have seen a lack of helpers. However, KAIR says they’ll continue to push through the shortages for their community.

“It’s just amazing to me how much we can accomplish together. As long as we keep our focus on God. We seem to be able to dredge through anything that he’s thrown at us,” Somes says.

KAIR encourages people who want to help their community to become a volunteer at their local food pantry.

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