Our Board of Directors has several standing committees that are essential to its governance of the organization. One of them is the Volunteer Services Committee which is composed of a board member and 8-10 volunteers. This committee is working on a “Volunteer Support Team,” which you will read more about in the next couple of weeks. The volunteers working on this project come from across our service area and represent both “newbie” and more seasoned volunteers. I’m so impressed with the substantive work that they’ve accomplished on this project in just a few short weeks. One reason that they have been so productive and successful is because volunteers share a strong organizational culture. Staff help support that culture, though I feel that it has grown organically because volunteers share the same beliefs and values regarding service to others. You’ve shared and interpreted your experiences over the years as you’ve shared coffee, chatted while waiting in line, and become friends. This contributes to a very strong shared volunteer identity. In fact, that came across quite strongly in the volunteer survey we did last summer, and also was echoed in the Volunteer Summit we held in December.

This culture affects how we all perform, make decisions, and act in certain situations—especially those that are a “threat” to the organization. I classify last week’s snowstorm as a threat since it interfered with our daily objective of delivering food to our clients. Our clients were asked to use emergency meals four times out of 7 delivery days, and there is more snow coming for Thursday night and into Friday. You have been dealing with very challenging delivery conditions from narrow roads to snow-covered walkways, yet you still keep coming out to deliver. Thank goodness! The culture that has been created over 50 years of MOW existence is one of care, compassion, and service. I’m not surprised that we could get meals out in these difficult conditions, but I am most appreciative—as is all of the staff.

One volunteer couple responded to my email last week asking for some extra help. When they showed up to get the meals, Melinda told them thanks for making the extra effort. The volunteers told me they really appreciated that. Last week was CRAZY in the office as you know from my email. If we didn’t say “thank you,” or you didn’t hear it, I’m saying it now. I’m saying it again. We are thrilled that you show up, day after day. We are grateful that you call in to say you couldn’t deliver meals to a client because the snow prevented access to the house. This gives us an opportunity to call and check on the client. Most clients apologized that you had to navigate a rough walkway, or to say they were sorry that they couldn’t clear the way. Your efforts are always appreciated, but we recognize the extra effort and stress that goes into delivering in difficult weather conditions—whether those conditions are a few feet of snow, arctic cold temps (get your MOWGLV hat!!), gale force winds, and heavy rain. You’ve seen it all.

On equal footing with our thanks is the feedback we get from our clients. The couple I mentioned earlier experienced the same thing you all did last week—narrow, snow covered roads and walkways. One of the clients on their route had shoveled a path to his house which facilitated the delivery. The volunteer thanked the client for clearing the sidewalk and, without hesitation, the client said “thanks for being a volunteer.” The volunteer was very touched that the client recognized and appreciated his role. I’m glad the volunteer shared this with me as I can now share it with you. Sharing these experiences and feelings is essential to supporting the culture that you, and predecessor volunteers, have worked hard to create.

Have a great week.

Victoria Coyle

Chief Executive Officer