Working quickly and quietly in a corner of the bustling commercial kitchen at Poverello House, Wendell and Joan Lum crank out breakfast burritos like a well-oiled machine.
"We can make 2 1/2 burritos a minute," Wendell says. They've made as many as 450 in a morning.
The Lums are long-time volunteers at Poverello House on F Street in Fresno, and for the past three years, they've come to the kitchen at 9 a.m. every Friday to make breakfast burritos for a Saturday children's sports program.
"We kind of fell into this when they were shorthanded once," Joan said. "We really enjoy doing it."
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Without the work the Lums and hundreds of volunteers like them provide, local charities say they couldn't serve the growing number of people who turn to them for help.
"I don't even know if our doors would be open without our volunteers," said Kelly Lilles, administrator at Catholic Charities on Fulton Street. "We count on them."
The number of hours volunteers give to the Community Food Bank "basically doubles our staff," said its CEO, Andy Souza. "That allows us to do so much more with the resources we have."
Souza said volunteers put in 60,000 staffing hours for the Community Food Bank last year. Keeping operational costs down allows the food bank to buy more food.
Volunteers do a wide variety of jobs that help local agencies feed, clothe, teach or mentor more and more people in need. They come from all walks of life and range in age from teens to retirees.
At Poverello House, the staff knows they can count on seeing the Lums every Friday.
Like a two-person assembly line, Wendell places a tortilla on a square of aluminum foil, scoops on the egg-and-potato mixture they cooked and slides it over to Joan, who folds the burrito, neatly wraps it in foil and lines it up with the other shiny bundles.
When they're done wrapping burritos, they keep working in the kitchen. "There's always something to do," Joan said. "We serve meals or bag lunches for the weekend."
Poverello House is just one of many agencies in Fresno that benefit from volunteer help.
For seven years, the eight friends have gathered weekly at Catholic Charities to bag groceries for the hungry.
They joke that they do it for the doughnuts and coffee, but they know they're meeting a real need.
"If we don't do it, they're going to hire it done," said Bob Taul, one of the eight, who volunteer every Monday morning to package food for needy people who line up down the block and around the corner each week.
The grocery baggers – all retirees – bring a box of doughnuts for their mid-morning break, where they "solve the world's problems," volunteer Larry Lawless said.
The men continue to give their time because the need is great. In the seven years they've been bagging groceries, they've seen the lines of people grow longer and food sources dwindle.
But they get something out of it, too. "It gives you some satisfaction to give back to the community," Ed Dunnigan said.
Catholic Charities counts on about 50 volunteers, including Ken and Vivian Avants of Fresno. They pick up several boxes of day-old bread and pastries at a local market on Herndon Avenue and deliver it to the downtown charity every Wednesday.
Helping isn't new to the couple, members at Saint Anthony's Catholic Church. "We've donated to Catholic Charities all our married life," said Ken, who married Vivian 55 years ago. They've been making the bread runs for two years.
"We enjoy it," Vivian said. "It goes for something good."
Volunteers aren't all retirement age. Three seniors at San Joaquin Memorial High School spent their summer planning a food drive to benefit Catholic Charities.
Loic Ferdinandi, Chris Schmid and Elizabeth Fisher heard at school about the agency's need for food donations. Over the summer, they founded the Starving Hunger food drive, raising money for donation bins they placed at about 40 local businesses. Catholic Charities picks up the donations.
"We wanted to find a way to help," Loic said. "This is the only way we can know we are helping. We wanted to make it more large-scale."
United Way of Fresno County
Sue Smilie Janecek helps the United Way and Toys for Tots by coordinating a fundraiser to buy Christmas gifts at a discount before the holidays.
She has been doing this for five years. Last's year's event raised about $12,000, after expenses. This year's play – an original musical comedy called "Shep's Christmas Wish" – is Nov. 5.
She spearheads about 100 volunteers. "I'm not the lead, but I'm the glue that gets everyone else together," she said.
She got involved in the annual toy drive after helping distribute toys for Christmas 11 years ago.
"It touched my heart," she said, to see the gratitude of parents. "I understood why we were doing it. But I thought about the people who didn't get any and that really broke my heart."
The Toys for Tots drive fell about 37,000 toys short of the number of requests last year, she said.
Fresno Rescue Mission
Brad Sparks was involved in a jail ministry before volunteering to teach a men's class at the Rescue Mission on G Street downtown.
"It's extremely important," Sparks says of mentoring and teaching. "The reality is that our nation is in serious trouble. We're going to see more people fall through the cracks."
The classes have changed men's lives, Sparks said. "Some of the people I ministered to in jail are now on staff at the Rescue Mission."
Sparks' position as president of Fresno Tractor has enabled him to take volunteerism to the next level by hiring eight men from the Rescue Mission's rehabilitation program over the past seven years.
Toni O'Donnell of Clovis has volunteered with the Samaritan Women program for women transitioning out of prison, a ministry of the Rescue Mission, for five years.
As a recovering alcoholic, she says she is well qualified to mentor women who have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.
"I'm an expert at being a drunk and also on how not to do it," she said. "It would be kind of a shame to keep that to myself."
Giving her time to others is a natural extension – and a requirement – of her faith, O'Donnell said. "If you say you're a Christian, you need to help."
Marjaree Mason Center
Fresno attorney Teri Ann Kezirian helps domestic-violence victims at the downtown Marjaree Mason Center by representing them in court hearings free of charge.
The work isn't difficult for her, but the women are grateful for her help.
"They're so scared," Kezirian said. "Sometimes it's hard for women to testify in court, to talk about personal matters."
Kezirian, like some who donate their time and work, has to balance her day job with her passion to help.
"The hardest part is feeling you don't volunteer enough," she said. "The need is so great."