An Astoria nonprofit that has served lunch to the homeless and others in need since 2015 is cutting down on the number of meals it provides each week due to a shortage of volunteers.
Filling Empty Bellies will continue to serve lunch Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays throughout August at Peoples Park off Marine Drive, according to director Erin Carlsen.
Last week, the group thought it would have to cut down to serving lunch only three days a week rather than the usual six, but has since had several more volunteers step up.
Carlsen sees the change in lunch service as an opportunity to tighten up the list of volunteers and ensure that the lunches are predictably provided and staffed. In July, some lunches were canceled or delayed, either because of a lack of volunteers or because someone had to drop out unexpectedly.
Carlsen said that, in general, “Summertime is really hard because people’s schedules change a lot.”
In a Facebook post Friday, Carlsen emphasized that Filling Empty Bellies is a nonprofit. Though the group receives regular food donations from Columbia Memorial Hospital and pizzas from Sahara Pizza, funding for meals often comes out of volunteers own pockets, she wrote.
“Most of us are working full-time jobs and squeezing this outreach work into our free time and days off,” she wrote. “Why do we continue to do it? I think it’s because we share a common belief that humans, no matter who they are or what they’ve done, deserve to eat and drink water in order to stay alive. Pretty simple.”
“The reality is that most of the volunteers are people who are barely making ends meet themselves and that’s why they’re doing it, because they know what it means to be hungry,” Carlsen told The Astorian.
In addition to providing lunches, Filling Empty Bellies also organizes laundry days at the Mini Mart on the east side to give people a chance to wash clothes and help connect people to other services.