By Danna Downing, Director South County Community Services
A life has many seasons and serving as a volunteer makes a difference in everyone’s life, no matter when the choice is made. For young mothers, it’s a great way to stay connected to the outside world and make new friends. For an unemployed person it can lead to future employment. For someone undecided about a career path, volunteering is helpful for clarifying occupational choices. For a youth struggling to recover from bad choices or a lack of direction, volunteering adds new meaning and definition in his or her development. For empty nesters and the retired, volunteering affords them a way to re-shape their lives, share their wisdom and give back to the community.
Faithful volunteers are a true gift for non-profit agencies and the families they serve. The human touch and skills they bring to the table are essential to the mission. They are the face of the group or agency they serve. In return they are gifted with knowing that what they offer truly makes a difference for all concerned. That’s not only rewarding, it can be downright FUN!
Volunteer Kalamazoo publishes a wonderful Guide to Volunteering. Although they are based in Kalamazoo they serve the entire Kalamazoo region. Their mission is to build capacity for effective local volunteering, connect people with opportunities to volunteer, and promote volunteerism in the Greater Kalamazoo Community.
In the Guide to Volunteering there is a step-by-step process outlined for getting started. Many of us are motivated to help others but find it difficult to know where to start helps a potential volunteer find opportunities that best fit a volunteer’s situation. The authors suggest that volunteers should ask themselves the following questions: Who do I want to help? What can I contribute? Where do I want to help? Do I want to volunteer alone or with a group? Do I want to volunteer for a project or a position?
Many volunteers prefer to look for jobs that fall within a subject or interest area. The published guide and the Volunteer Kalamazoo website (www.volunteerkalamazoo.org) provide an index that sorts opportunities into key categories and also provides symbols that quickly inform whether or not the volunteer site is barrier free, on a public transportation route, a group activity or meets requirements for court ordered service. A volunteer is likely to be surprised at the huge array of opportunities.
At South County Community Services (SCCS) the power of volunteerism is clearly demonstrated. The front office is staffed by volunteers every day of the week. The Metro Community Service Van is driven, literally and figuratively by trained volunteers. Volunteers make the Wednesday Winners, a unique program for adults with disabilities, a grand success. They help by offering maximum personal attention to the participants and generous donations of time and money to support the program. The SCCS holiday assistance teams enhanced the 2013 holidays for over 500 area residents.
South County residents are invited to consider SCCS as a place to volunteer if you are looking for a close-to-home site that serves in a variety of ways for people of all ages, the phone number is 649-2901.
SCCS is currently looking for volunteers in the following areas:
- Food and Personals Pantry: Involves a team of two persons to assist pantry clients in shopping in a newly developing area that provides clients with the opportunity to choose food products and get help with menu planning and finding additional food and nutrition resources. The pantry services are provided on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays afternoons.
- Additional office staff is needed for Thursdays and Fridays or for special projects.
- During the month of March, the agency is re-designing space in the lower level to house staff from the Kalamazoo Department of Human Services (DHS), the fine folks who are the gatekeepers for access to medical care assistance, food assistance, financial assistance and many other programs via MI Bridges enrollment for state aid. Volunteers with electrical, plumbing and carpentry skills would help the agency reduce the costs involved in housing this critical agency which will serve about 800 residents who currently have a DHS caseworker.
- SCCS is also seeking individuals with computer savvy to assist clients with the online registration required by DHS. Volunteers would be trained and work with applicants by appointment at a mutually acceptable time in a space provided by SCCS.
- Wednesday Winners is currently recruiting individuals with a hobby or interest they are willing to share with their group. The group meets in the early afternoon most Wednesdays.