Helping Hands Needed: Union Station Up Against a Shortage of Volunteers

Pasadena Star-News
By Marshall Allen

Aging workers, summer vacations and construction hassles are causing a shortage of volunteers to prepare and serve meals at the city’s largest provider of homeless services.

Union Station Foundation serves about 136,000 meals per year to Pasadena’s homeless population, which is estimated at about 1,200 people on a given night. The meals are served at the charity’s 412 S. Raymond Ave. location, and most of the work is done by volunteers.

Union Station has benefited from the services of lots of loyal people, many of them retirees, said Tami Kimball, director of community and volunteer programs. But lately, there has been a shortage of workers.

“There’s not a question in anyone’s mind that we’ll keep open the meals program,” Kimball said. “But without having the hands to do it, it makes it very difficult.”

Ideally, there would be seven volunteers for each morning and mid-day shift. Last Wednesday, about 95 breakfasts were prepared and served by three people.

Sandy Crosier of Pasadena was one of the three. She said the lack of helping hands made things difficult.

The main problem, Crosier said, is that many volunteers are inconsistent. Crosier, who is now retired after 31 years as a pharmacy technician, plans the rest of her life around her volunteer days, she said, not the other way around. It’s important that people be dependable, she said.

“It’s sort of like a job in a sense,” she said.

Union Station is currently under construction, adding 20 beds for homeless women to its facility, and the overhaul has reduced parking. That hassle keeps some volunteers away, and the work is scheduled to last about 10 months, Kimball said.

The volunteer shortage might fall the hardest on Food Service Manager Wendy Bienvenue, who administers the meals program in addition to supervising food preparation.

“I need cooks, because if I don’t have a cook then I need to cook, and that takes away from my office time,” Bienvenue said.

The times of greatest need are the 8 to 11 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. shifts on weekdays and Saturdays, officials said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can attend a 90-minute orientation meeting at the 412 S. Raymond Ave. location. For more information, call (626) 240-4553

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