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Lindsay Fujimoto- Story of Service

My name is Lindsay Fujimoto, and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at the United Way of Pierce County where I am the Project Coordinator for the Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative. My service focuses on healthy futures by ensuring that basic needs are met for Pierce County residents. One basic need I’m particularly focused on is hunger as more than 15% of people in Pierce County are food insecure. As with many social issues, hunger is intersectional in the sense that many other factors contribute to it as a part of the bigger picture of poverty. As a result, I have also worked to address other issues such as student homelessness as there are 4,000 homeless students in Pierce County. One moment where all of these issues came together was at National Family Volunteer Day.

I was tasked with organizing a National Family Volunteer Day project with the other VISTA at my site, Natasha, who focuses on education. Together, we researched and secured the event site and planned three volunteer projects for the day. These three projects included 100 literacy kits, 200 hygiene kits for homeless teens, and 300 soup kits. This meant coordinating orders and pick-ups for the supplies of 600 total kits, which was a pretty daunting task! We also needed to recruit 40 volunteers to participate in this event. By creating online marketing materials and reaching out to previous volunteers and corporate partners, we were able to recruit more volunteers than we could handle that day and actually had to start a wait list.

On the days leading up to the event, I helped to organize our United Way of Pierce County team and determine who was bringing what supplies on the day of the event. After we managed to squeeze all of the supplies into three vehicles, we were set for the event. Since we had planned ahead, set up went very smoothly, and I kept energy levels up with a playlist I made for the event. All of the volunteers who signed up showed up excited to participate in the projects. After making a quick speech thanking the volunteers for giving their time and energy for this event and explaining the impact these projects make in the community, we let volunteers take on the projects.

When the projects were completed, we had Justin from the Harvest House Food Pantry speak in more detail about food insecurity in Pierce County, his experience with hunger, and how the soup kits will be used in their pantry. Coordinating with Justin to have him there not only made it easier for us to connect his organization with the soup kits, but it also provided the volunteers with a unique perspective into hunger.

We were impressed by how much the volunteers were able to accomplish in a two-hour window, but we were even more excited to see that lasting impact of this project. For example, at the end of the event, several families said they were inspired to continue volunteering and requested more information on future opportunities. Additionally, the hygiene kits, which we had never done before, were a huge hit with our partner organizations as there is a significant need for these items. This resulted in future projects for companies looking to do a service project with their staff. For example, one company completed 200 hygiene kits a few weeks after National Family Volunteer Day. These lasting effects of my efforts in putting together National Family Volunteer Day are rewarding in the sense that it helps me see the sustainable aspect of my VISTA service. As we move into 2017, I am looking forward to using what I learned doing National Family Volunteer Day to effectively organize other volunteer opportunities, such as my current project, Martin Luther King, Jr. Week of Service.