Thousands of volunteers support RPS meals program
Many students at Richmond Public Schools (RPS) depend on the meals they receive at school, so when school buildings closed in March as a precaution against COVID-19, RPS knew they needed a system to ensure kids still have access to the food they need – and thousands of volunteers are stepping up to help.
“Volunteers have been an integral part of ensuring our students have the materials and resources they need during school closure,” said Dr. Shadae Harris, RPS Chief Engagement Officer. “We are so grateful for each of our volunteers who have given so much of themselves to support our students and families during this time.”
Currently, RPS is running 10 school-based meal distribution sites from designated school locations, where families can come and pick up breakfast and lunch for their young learners. The division is also running 14 meal delivery routes to bring food directly into neighborhoods. Volunteers help prepare and distribute meals alongside RPS staff in both programs. In the last month, over 2,000 volunteers have connected with HandsOn Greater Richmond – a service of the Community Foundation that matches volunteers to impactful service opportunities – to dedicate more than 7,000 hours of their time to distribute over 235,000 meals throughout our community.
“Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose. I have always volunteered my free time, and having heard a lot of good things about HandsOn through my church, I wanted to work with them at a time when the needs are so immediate,” said Anne Oliver, who regularly volunteers at the Ginter Park Elementary meal distribution site. “Volunteering at an RPS Distribution Site is an excellent opportunity to give back to my community. I am most excited about giving my time when I can make a big impact on others. To help those who are under-privileged and have unfortunate circumstances gives me the greatest pleasure and an incredible fulfillment.”
Numerous dedicated volunteers have been assisting these efforts since they began, including many teachers and other school staff who are looking for a way to connect with students while distance learning keeps them apart. Volunteer leaders from “For Richmond,” a network of churches in Metro Richmond, have been directing volunteer efforts at each school-based meal site, so the process runs as smoothly as possible.
“This experience has helped me develop bonding relationships with other volunteers and to feel like I am making a difference in my community,” Oliver said. “I have met so many amazing volunteers who have the same passion and care that I do about supporting a great cause like this one.”
If you are interested in lending a hand for RPS meal distribution, visit the HandsOn Greater Richmond website to learn more.