Michael Stoops says the recession is bringing out a volunteer spirit in America.
"When we're in times like these, there's a greater willingness on the part of the American people to volunteer," says Stoops, director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C. "We've seen an upsurge in people willing to do direct service volunteering, not just when it's cold" or on religious holidays, Stoops says.
Stoops says he's never had so many applications from people across the country interested in unpaid internships or AmeriCorps positions with his organization. "We've been getting about triple the number of applications over the last two years as homelessness has become more newsworthy or hot issue."
But there's a flip side. Funding sources are diminishing and "the food pantries are running low on food" since the recession started, says Stoops.
Elizabeth Evancho is a development coordinator for ThriveDC, a nonprofit that provides daily meals and services for poor and homeless people in the capital city. She says many of the charitable foundations that give money to ThriveDC are telling her to expect as much as 30 percent less this year, and other foundations are not taking new applications.
On the volunteer front, ThriveDC is doing just fine. Resource coordinator Nathan Mishler says ThriveDC has already booked Sunday volunteers -- a dozen or so folks to help cook and clean in the kitchen and greet folks on the floor -- for the rest of 2009.
Bread for the City, which provides food and other assistance to families in Washington, announced pay cuts in March in the face of lower-than-expected revenues.
"It's a painful irony that we have to make sacrifices just to maintain our current levels of services, even as the need for those services is increasing," writes Bread for the City spokesman Greg Bloom in an email to the Huffington Post.
Need for these services is increasing -- the government reported last week that one in ten Americans is using food stamps to buy food. The Huffington Post wants to report on the extraordinary effort of Americans who volunteer to help their communities. Do you know of a coordinator in who's done great things to improve the lives of others in your community? Or do you know of problem -- a funding shortage, for example -- that's crippling service for the needy? The Huffington Post wants to know! Email us at email@example.com.