Area nonprofits in 'critical' need of volunteers, emergency website aims to help

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - One Johnson County nonprofit group says they are getting low on people to help get food out to those that are in need.

Staff at Table to Table in Iowa City refill all purpose cleaner on Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)

They say with the University of Iowa going entirely online and the group's older volunteers, they have lost about 80-percent of their total number of volunteers since concerns over the novel coronavirus started growing.

"We pick up food that's available and get it to people who need it," said Nicki Ross, the Executive Director of Table to Table in Iowa City.

At Table to Table in Iowa City, without volunteers, the group's work is nearly impossible. The organization transports more than two million pounds of food annually from area grocery stores and schools and brings it to area shelters and food pantries that could use it.

"We have 60 routes per week that are all done- all of the food rescue is done by volunteers," Ross said.

But for the first time in the group's 24 years of service, they spent three days closed. No deliveries were made, no volunteers were asked to come in; instead, leaders with the organization spent the time re-planning what they had done for years to better serve the community during a time of crisis and limited help.

"We did that so we could reorganize and figure out how we could get our routes done with fewer volunteers," Ross said.

The United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties is hoping to step in to help nonprofits like Table to Table.

"We have opened our emergency volunteer center, which is a connector for any person who wants to be helped during this time, and connecting with those whose needs have already been identified," said Patti Fields, the Vice President of Community Impact & Engagement for the United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties.

Fields said staff there re-built a website to show the groups in desperate need of help, and how people can answer the call.

"When disaster times come, and this is certainly one of, many of us are new to is COVID-19, we connect volunteers during disaster times as well," Fields said.

For Table to Table, it could serve as a step in the right direction, but it could be the beginning of a long journey back to their peak form.

"I never had a doubt that we would bounce back, be able to continue our services, in large part because our community supports us so much," Ross said.

For those interested in volunteer opportunities, visit the Covid-19 Volunteers website updated by the United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties.