Article by Sarah Thompson, Urban Alliance’s Director of Communications & Volunteer Mobilization. Photos by Christopher Johnson, Urban Alliance's Communications Associate.
On any given week, UAServe Champion Mike Munroe can been found working hard to help others in the Greater Hartford community. Some might wonder how he juggles volunteering at a food pantry with helping out at an after-school program, and sorting donations at another community program. Better yet? He does it all with a smile.
Munroe first learned about UAServe through his church and soon after felt compelled to get involved.
"UA was involved in First Church of Christ Wethersfield's Serving Sunday, when church members learn about volunteer opportunities at various non-profit organizations," he explained.
Urban Alliance recruits and matches hundreds of volunteers just like Munroe to dozens of local programs, helping the programs to strengthen their impact.
"There are more than 50 volunteer opportunities that we match volunteers to," explained Rosa McGuire, Urban Alliance's Volunteer Manager. "It's always exciting when we meet someone who we know will be in it for the long haul, is willing to try different opportunities, and wants to help in whatever ways are needed."
Munroe was matched to three sites: Crossroads Community Cathedral's food pantry, which provides non-perishable food items for community members and helps connect them to additional community resources, Hartford City Mission's Noah After School program, a free program for children in first through fifth grade, and World Vision, an organization that distributes school supplies, household and personal hygiene products and clothing to those most in need through community partner organizations.
"UA makes a good effort to match your strengths and preferences to a volunteer opportunity. They also follow up to make sure that you are satisfied at your volunteer placement," he said.
"Mike comes to the pantry every time it is open. Each and every week," shared Crossroads food pantry leader Dave Warner. "He is always ready and willing to help any way he can. He is friendly and connects with the clients in the best possible and positive way. He is always cheerful and smiling—even sings at times!"
Abbi Menear, Children's Ministry Associate at Hartford City Mission adds, "He has consistently shown up to help students with their homework and develop positive relationships with them. He's shown up to extra events outside of his normal scheduled time to encourage the kids, and he has also helped with things like giving staff and volunteers rides home."
"He brings valuable warehouse experience and a strong work ethic with him," shared Mike Bassett, Site Manager for World Vision. "He helps our operation run smoothly. He is friendly and helpful."
Munroe values being about to help others.
"I enjoy giving back to the community, being able to share my Christian faith while volunteering, helping others in material and spiritual needs, and meeting other committed and wonderful volunteers," he shared.
And, his commitment has undoubtedly helped strengthen the programs where he serves.
"Noah After School needs volunteers to function well," explained Menear. "UAServe has helped us fill gaps in our volunteer coverage and find some volunteers who've been consistently faithful."
Warner added, "Without the help of our UAServe volunteers the pantry could not operate. This is not an understatement. Volunteers are expected to serve once per month, but Mike comes even more, twice a week at least."
"With the support of the volunteers that UAServe connects us with we have been able to increase our capacity to provide more donated supplies to those in need in our community," explained Bassett. "The amount of donated supplies we were able to distribute increased by over 76% last year. And, we have big dreams to keep increasing our capacity year over year. We wouldn't be able to dream so big if we didn't have faith in the ability of the UAServe program to connect and bless us with talented and motivated volunteers."
The ongoing relationship between Munroe, the program leaders and the many community members he interacts with continues to cause a ripple effect of joy.
He shared, "I have what I call a 'volunteer high' after I have completed a volunteer shift. It is similar to a 'runner's high'. I feel more connected to people. I also feel that I am doing God's work in the community. It feels good to help others!"
Interested in becoming a UAServe volunteer? Click here to browse UAServe volunteer opportunities or contact Rosa McGuire for more information.