Volunteers power the work of Preble Street

The contributions of volunteers are part of the lifeblood of Preble Street, playing a crucial role in fulfilling Preble Street’s mission and making a meaningful impact in the Portland community. They provide invaluable support in various areas across the organization, including event planning, community outreach, meal prep at the Food Security Hub, or sorting donations at the Receiving Center. 

Volunteers come to Preble Street for a lot of different reasons, but for many people, what stands apart is the community and strong sense of mission and purpose. A volunteer at the Receiving Center, Dianne (she/her), shares that she enjoys volunteering with Preble Street because “I can feel the community. There is a sense of lived mission.” Another volunteer, John (he/him), who has been coming to Preble Street for 10 years, starting in one of the soup kitchens and moving to the Receiving Center, agrees with Dianne. He says, “I can feel the community and mission coming here.” 

Dianne and another volunteer, An (they/them), sorting donations at the Receiving Center.

Not only do volunteers appreciate the community at Preble Street, but they are also responsible for creating this sense of community that John and Dianne feel at Preble Street. As active participants in Preble Street’s mission, they help to build community with staff and fellow volunteers and create a welcoming environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging and purpose. 

Volunteers and staff celebrating at the annual Volunteer Appreciation event, held in April at the Food Security Hub.

Many volunteers, like John, have been coming to Preble Street for 10, 20, or even 30 years! The 2024 Leon Gorman Volunteer of the Year, Ellen DeCotiis, has been a volunteer with Preble Street for over 20 years. “Ellen was here the first day I started at Preble Street,” says Dani Walczak (she/her) Preble Street Food Programs Chef. “She showed me the ropes.” Dani remarks on Ellen’s contributions to the community at the Food Security Hub: I think what is unique about Ellen is she really sees the whole picture. Food is so much about community, and she knows that and imbues that in all the work she does at Preble and elsewhere.”

Last year’s recipients, John Reali and Jimmy Wilber, are also veteran Preble Street volunteers, with a recorded 1,500 volunteer hours since 2017! With longstanding connections to Preble Street and as participants in its work, volunteers are deeply embedded in the Preble Street community and mission.  

Like Preble Street staff, and the people we serve, volunteers also bring diverse skills and experiences, enriching the work of Preble Street and each other in countless ways. Ellen, for example, is a speech pathologist, and after another volunteer suffered a stroke, she made a point of connecting with this person about speech and recovery. “She engages with this community on so many levels… helping other volunteers learn English or connecting with a volunteer, who had a stroke, about speech,” noted Dani Walczak. Ellen, and other volunteers like her, have unique experiences and backgrounds that enrich Preble Street’s work and the community. 

We appreciate volunteers every month, but especially this April during National Volunteer Month. A big thank you to all Preble Street volunteers – past, present, and future!

Preble Street Teen Services Named Beach to Beacon Beneficiary

In February 2024, TD Bank made the exciting announcement that Preble Street Teen Services will be the beneficiary of the 26th running of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. This year’s race will take place on Saturday, August 3, 2024.  “Preble Street Teen Services provides critical support to teens in need in our community.”

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Get to Know Elisa Fleig, Preble Street’s Volunteer Program Manager

Elisa Fleig, Volunteer Program Manager at Preble Street, is passionate about locally sourced, sustainable food. She feels lucky to have her desk located in the Food Security Hub – Preble Street’s production kitchen and meal distribution center. In fact, Preble Street’s commitment to serving nutritious, and culturally relevant meals to people experiencing food insecurity is what

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