The National Day of Service had a number of people trying their hand at helping out for the first time in Madison. Now, the non-profits hope to keep them coming back.
It was a busy day at Saint Vincent De Paul’s food Pantry on Fish Hatchery Road. Ellen Karlson and Cristie Roberson were among the 15 or so new volunteers that came out for the National Day of Service. They spent three hours Saturday morning helping neighbors in need fill grocery carts with food.
"It felt like an exciting thing to do to know that I'm a part of this greater thing that's happening all over the country," Karlson said.
"I've always been kind of interested in helping with food pantries, but I was shy," Roberson said. "I was nervous about making a big commitment."
The National Day of Service, meant to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, was an opportunity for some to try out non-profit work. Roberson found out about it from Michelle Obama’s Twitter feed, and she said she'll likely come back to the food pantry for more volunteering in the future.
"It definitely made it easy for me to act on a sort of something I felt I wanted to do sometime in my life," Roberson said.
"We think we're getting a number of people willing to come back for another time," Saint Vincent De Paul’s associate executive director Ernie Stetenfeld said, "and that's one of the key elements of this day."
Stetenfeld urged people to try out volunteer opportunities at any time, not just when a national effort encourages that kind of service.
At Second Harvest Food Bank, first-time volunteer Lonny Shenck is dressed in a hair net and apron, busy packing pounds of cheese for hungry families.
"It's a needy and worthwhile cause," Shenck said.
Another group is sorting out bakery items to serve the 100,000 people the organization helps every month.
Second Harvest president and CEO Dan Stein said the food bank relies heavily on volunteers. In fact, he clocks more than 63,000 hours of donated time every year.
"People volunteer and continue to volunteer if it's a good experience, and we hope we can show that they make a difference because people want to feel good about giving their time and knowing that it makes a difference," Stein said.