Sunday, July 3, 2022

Boca Nonprofits Facing Volunteer Crisis

South Florida is starting to slow down as snowbirds flock back north to escape the sweltering summer months. And though residents are enjoying less congestion on the highways and more open seats at the bar, the off season is presenting a struggle for local nonprofit organizations who are in need of volunteers.

While staffing is always a challenge for businesses and nonprofits alike during summer, Boca Helping Hands (BHH) Executive Director Greg Hazle says that this year stands out in terms of shortages.

“It’s been a combination of factors that have created this little bit of a crisis that we’re going through,” says Hazle, citing lingering fears of Covid amongst potential volunteers as well as employee groups from their corporate partners shifting to remote or hybridized work settings.

boca helping hands
A Boca Helping Hands volunteer, photo courtesy of Boca Helping Hands

Hazle says that BHH’s food and service operations are the most affected by the shortages and that the organization’s operational staff have had to pick up the slack where 90 percent of the nonprofit’s volunteers would usually dedicate their time.

“Fortunately we haven’t had to curtail any services, it’s just made it harder on the staff and volunteers who actually show up,” Hazel says, “It makes for longer days, the lines move a little bit more slowly, but everybody that shows up for service is still being served”

BHH is currently seeking volunteer staff to assist with food preparation and storing, distribution and warehouse operations to meet a growing demand of families in need of services.

“The supply chain issues and all other the other factors that are affecting the cost of goods is affecting our clients,” says Hazle, and that these clients who are working low-paying jobs and struggling to make ends meet rely on the supplemental assistance provided by BHH.

For volunteer opportunities at Boca Helping Hands, please click here.

Another local nonprofit that is feeling the sting of supply chain issues and volunteer shortages is Boca’s Fuller Center, where members of the administrative staff have had to take on volunteer duties to assist their stretched-thin operational staff.

“I have two staff [members] to take care of eight babies,” says Fuller Center CEO Ellyn Okrent, and that the administrative staff has had to shift their focus away from the community to ensure that the needs of their staff and clients are being met.

“We haven’t been able to be as social and as out in the community participating … because we’ve been all hands on deck to stay open,” says Okrent, “Our staff right now are holding our own, but nobody can be sick, nobody can be out because we are so tightly staffed.”

Photo courtesy of The Fuller Center and Bea Byers

Okrent also says that she has never experienced volunteer shortages like this before, but that the cost of gas and food are also top amongst her concerns going into summer. While Okrent says she understands the reticence of those who are still concerned with the threat posed by Covid, volunteer assistance is vital to the services provided by the Fuller Center.

“Our kids really need more support than ever.”

For volunteer opportunities at The Fuller Center, please click here.

Tyler Childress
Tyler is the Web Editor and a contributing writer for Boca Raton magazine. He is an FAU summa cum laude graduate in Multimedia Studies who enjoys covering tech, education, housing and any other issues affecting South Florida.

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