By Robbie Owens

by Robbie Owens | CBS 11

PLANO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s the headline that we can’t seem to escape– employers everywhere can’t seem to find enough workers. More pay hasn’t put a dent in the shortage, so non-profits who need volunteers to work for free are facing a special challenge.

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“Our entire production module is based having volunteers here,” says Cassie Collins, Director of Volunteer Operations at the North Texas Food Bank. “Without volunteers, we don’t get to make boxes, we don’t get to make pallets, and ultimately, we can’t serve the food to the community.”

Collins says the pandemic launched a perfect storm for nonprofits: skyrocketing need and shrinking resources. The number of volunteers at NTFB dropped by more than 75%. And with the holidays approaching, they’re desperate for that volunteer support to return.

“Now that we’ve started to come out of the pandemic, and we’ve started to go back to school, we’ve started to go back churches, and we’re starting to go back to work… no one’s really thought about ‘do I go back to volunteering’? And the fact of the matter is, we need them to go back to volunteering.”

During the past year, the NTFB continued to help hungry families– distributing a record 125.6 million meals. But they were able to do that with support from the Texas National Guard and grant money that allowed them to hire part time help. Now that the Guard has moved on to other assignments, the NTFB is appealing to the community lend a hand… and they’re appealing to North Texans’ huge hearts.

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“I’m feeding a child,” gushed an excited Colleen Park, as she was finishing a volunteer shift at the NTFB Plano warehouse. “I’m standing there crying.” Her friend and colleague Donna Pickens quickly agreed. “It’s great. it’s great.”

Despite the strong job market, NTFB staffers say working families still struggle.

“Let’s face it– groceries have gone up significantly,” says Collins. “Do I spend this money over here? Or do I keep a roof over my family’s head?”

“I really learned a lot,” shares longtime volunteer Nancy Levenson. “I didn’t understand the depth of people that are in need, so that makes this even better.”

The volunteers who are already lending a hand need no convincing. They’re full of compassion, just asking for some company.

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“You don’t have to be healthy; you don’t have to be rich,” says Park, “just walk through those doors and say `I’m here’.”