Volunteer Here: MANNA
This is the first in a new series that goes behind the scenes at nonprofits throughout the region. While not all organizations are exclusively LGBT, all serve the community in important ways. This is your chance to get to know what they do and how you can get involved.
To kick off the conversation, Morgan Levine (you may know her as the co-producer of the popular Stimulus and Arouse parties for women) sat down with Rob Saxon, the volunteer coordinator at MANNA, a nonprofit that’s been delivering meals to critically ill people throughout the Philadelphia and South Jersey regions from its busy kitchen on Ranstead Street. While the organization was initially created to nourish people living with HIV and AIDS, MANNA has expanded it mission to meet the needs of even more people living with life-threatening illness within the community.
Now in it’s 20th year of service, MANNA prepares and delivers delicious, nourishing meals and counsel, empowering individuals to battle illness and improve their quality of life. Through its various services, MANNA provides opportunities for caring volunteers to extend loving support to families, friends and neighbors. Here’s what Saxon told us.
What does MANNA stand for? Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance
How many meals do you cook and deliver each month? 90,000
How many people volunteer at MANNA each day? At least 75 a day.
How old is your youngest volunteer? 14
And your oldest? She’s in her 80s and has been volunteering for the past 20 years for five days a week.
What are some ways people can pitch in? MANNA delivers medically appropriate nutrition to our clients – that’s three meals a day, seven days a week – at no charge. We need volunteers to help prepare and package 5,200 meals a day in our kitchen. We also appreciate volunteers who may be able to help out at special events throughout the year.
Do you have to be skilled in the kitchen to volunteer? No, everything is taught when volunteers arrive. (It’s a great way to learn some basic culinary skills and meet new friends.)
When are volunteers needed the most? We rely on volunteers every day – Monday through Friday. Mornings are the busiest – we have shifts starting from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, we close the kitchen early.
Is MANNA LGBT-friendly? Very friendly and we’re very diverse. On any day of the week, you can walk into the kitchen and see people from all walks of life. MANNA originally started out as an AIDS service organization, but four years ago, we expanded to serve people with life-threatening illness. HIV and AIDS will always be at the core of what we do.
How else has MANNA changed over the years? MANNA has always been forward thinking, and we are always striving to do things better. Our motto is, “Work smarter rather than harder.” This year, we served more than 1,000 clients. That’s more than any year in the past.
Who does MANNA serve? People suffering from life-threatening illness – including HIV and AIDS, cancer, kidney disease and many other illnesses – from Philadelphia and the surrounding nine counties, as well as four counties in South Jersey, including Camden, Burlington, Gloucester and Salem.
Is MANNA accessible by public transportation? Yes, almost every SEPTA line stops within blocks of our location at 2323 Ranstead St. (a block south of Market St.).
Does MANNA have any upcoming events we should know about? MANNA will celebrate the 19th annual performance of Shut Up & Dance on Saturday, May 21, at the Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut St.). Shut Up & Dance is a one-night-only benefit presented by the Dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet featuring original works choreographed and performed by the dancers. Tickets go on sale April 15 and can be purchased online or by calling 215-496-2662.
How does someone get started volunteering with MANNA? There are three steps:
1. Fill out the volunteer application online.
2. Attend our next mandatory volunteer orientation at MANNA.
3. Join us in the kitchen for your first volunteer shift! We also look for volunteers at events like Nourish and Shut Up & Dance, as well as during our annual fundraiser Pie in the Sky.
What’s the biggest perk of working at MANNA? Knowing you’re helping people in your local community in what can be the fight of their lives. We also thank our volunteers each summer with a volunteer appreciation party. We close down Ranstead Street and treat everyone to music, dancing and plenty of great food. It’s a chance for our staff to thank the people who really make what we do possible.