You Can Help
• Friends in Service to Humanity Westside Food Pantry of Vancouver, otherwise known as FISH, is seeking donations of coats, blankets, sock, gloves and boots to be distributed to clients who are homeless. The food pantry is open 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at 906 Harney St.
• Interested in volunteering? Call 360-695-4903 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
While a recently released analysis by The Chronicle of Philanthropy looked at the dollars people give to charities, it didn’t account for the value of volunteers like John Kaloudis, who works weekly at a downtown Vancouver food pantry.
The worth of volunteers has steadily increased. In Washington, volunteer time is worth $30.04 hourly and $24.15 hourly in Oregon, according to Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs. The figure is calculated using Bureau of Labor Statistics data on average hourly earnings of production and non-supervisory workers.
Kaloudis typically does stocking for Friends in Service to Humanity Westside Food Pantry of Vancouver, otherwise known as FISH, and he also retrieves foods from the Clark County Food Bank. The 50-year-old said he has nearly two decades of experience working forklifts, and he’s driven big rigs, so he’s the expert around the FISH warehouse.
Still, he helps out wherever he’s needed. One Thursday afternoon, he was working near a side entrance where homeless people pick up bags of snacks. A lot of his friends come up to this window.
For 2 1/2 years, Kaloudis was homeless and, he said, he simply accepted his situation for a while. After he and his fiancée moved out of her mother’s place, they couldn’t find a place to live that they could afford. So, they stayed in a tent. They bounced around, sometimes together and sometimes separate.
While homeless, his fiancée met Wendy Bukoski, the operations manager at FISH, and they started volunteering there. Helping out was a better way to spend the day than being outside.
“I know what it’s like to be homeless. I know what it’s like to be without,” Kaloudis said.
He just got into an apartment last week and is working with agencies to secure employment. Although his place is within walking distance of FISH and he plans to keep volunteering, discussing the future — a future where he stays housed — brings tears to his eyes.
“Now that I’ve got a home, I’m overwhelmed. Everything’s happening so quick. It’s hard to believe it’s real,” Kaloudis said.
FISH relies almost entirely on volunteers. Bukoski is the only paid employee and works part time. Last year, volunteers contributed more than 22,000 hours to the food pantry, and if it expands its hours, there will be an even greater need for people power.
Bukoski said FISH needs 25 people per shift (there are two three-hour shifts daily).
“Right now, we’re lucky if we have 12,” she said.