The Bangor Area Homeless Shelter needs volunteers around the year to serve daily meals, transport food, and sort through food and clothing donations. Last year, according to Executive Director Boyd Kronholm, the shelter recorded 7,000 volunteer hours, but volunteers put in the majority of those hours during two months — November and December.
Although Maine ranks ninth in the nation for volunteerism, and organizations that need volunteers’ help during the holiday season can generally find it, those same organizations struggle to keep adequate numbers during the rest of the year.
Some 38.7 percent of Maine residents volunteered between April 2017 and April 2018, according to the latest annual Volunteering in America report, compiled by the Corporation for National and Community Service. That’s the ninth highest rate in the nation. The report, which measures general volunteering with a formal organization, shows that 425,346 volunteers in Maine put in 39.2 million hours of service during the reporting period.
But what the study doesn’t show are the discrepancies between volunteer numbers and hours during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year. The needs of the people these organizations serve aren’t seasonal, but the volunteer help largely is.
Throughout the holiday season, the Salvation Army in Bangor sees about 100 volunteers pass through its Dorothy Day Soup kitchen on South Park Street. The organization attracts other holiday season volunteers who collect Christmas kettle donations and purchase toys for those in need. But during the rest of the year, the Salvation Army is down to 60 regular soup kitchen volunteers, said Capt. Rebecca Kirk, corps officer, pastor and administrator for the Salvation Army in Bangor.