While a single volunteer’s efforts might seem small, volunteering your time adds up. In 2019, the U.S. collectively volunteered over 8 billion hours, contributing work valued at over $200 billion. Volunteers at Columbia’s food bank alone logged more than 100,000 hours. Whether you’re giving an hour of your time or donating an hour’s worth of your paycheck, these organizations rely on locals to put in the good work and make our community better.
Voluntary Action Center
For over 50 years, the Voluntary Action Center has provided assistance with health, food, education, housing and other basic needs for Boone County households with incomes at or below double the federal poverty level — $52,400 for a family of four.
The VAC initiates programs year-round, including Homes For Computers, Warm Up Columbia and the Back to School Health Fair. Its Summer Fan Program provided 340 donated electric fans in 2019 to low-income families to help beat the summer heat. “It takes those gifts both large and small to cumulatively make the difference that we all make together,” says VAC Executive Director Nick Foster.
The VAC also relies on support from the community. Over 35% of its $490,000 projected annual revenue comes from fundraising and individual and corporate donations. In addition to monetary and supply donations, the center accepts volunteer work for help with its seasonal programs and typically sees more than 500 volunteers per year.
The Veterans United Foundation
A quick turn off Forum Boulevard and onto Veterans United Drive is all it takes to reach the headquarters of Veterans United Home Loans. It’s the nation’s largest supplier of VA loans and the largest private employer in Columbia, with more than 2,500 local employees as of January 2020.
It’s also the parent of the Veterans United Foundation, which launched in 2011. The foundation is funded by VU employees, more than 90% of whom donate at least 1% of their salary to help the cause. It partners with and supports various community-focused organizations such as Heart of Missouri United Way and the Veteran’s Urban Farm program.
The Foundation also gives to veterans and military families. Recently, VU provided 250 meals a day from local restaurants to Columbia’s health care workers and pledged $1 million toward COVID-19 relief by working with comohelps.org to help provide the necessary resources to combat the pandemic.
The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri
The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri provided over 24 million meals to people in need in 2018. The bank supplies about 140 food pantries and other food organizations across 32 counties — from Kirksville to the Lake of the Ozarks — and is the only food bank in Missouri to provide to the organizations for free.
In 2019, 15,120 volunteers helped the food bank in and around Columbia and contributed more than 100,000 hours of volunteer work. The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Columbia is no longer taking in-person volunteers for roles at the bank and Central Pantry because of COVID-19. Instead, the bank has started new at-home volunteer programs, such as writing letters to accompany the senior and veteran food boxes, creating masks for the food bank workers and knitting scarves for the future winter months.