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Volunteers donate untold time and energy to organizations

Most people would agree that volunteerism is a good thing. But how many people could articulate the ways in which volunteerism contributes to the local community?

Jo Jones, program aide for the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Vancouver, tells individuals age 55 and over who are looking for meaningful volunteer jobs: "Community volunteers provide services not possible without their help."

Whether service as an RSVP volunteer matched with one of Southwest Washington's 30 or so vetted, nonprofit organizations or a younger person searching for suggestions thrgouh the Volunteer Center, Jones added, "Volunteers do important work for nonprofits that contribute to the organization's goals. WIthout volunteers' time and energy, it wouldn't get done."

Marcia Hale, program coordinator for Volunteer Connections, describes the three programs overseen by the Human Services Council. First, through RSVP, the agency provides the mechanism to match individuals ages 55 and older with nonprofits that fit with community needs. Last year about 255 senior and retired vounteers participated in what is called the Healthy Futures program, donating time and expertise for a total of about 28,627 hours. These mostly outcome-based plans serve highly vetted organizations such as food banks, clinics, schools, and local thrift stores.

Second, the Volunteer Center serves volunteers of all ages, and connects them with all sorts of other opportunities beyond the 30 nonprofits involved in Healthy Futures. Hale notes that in 2016, volunteers of all ages contributed about 24,732 hours of community service through the 100 other volunteer partners. For example, Volunteer Connections can hook up volunteers with a one-hour-a-week dog-walking gig or utilize an individual's desire to organize a blood drive.

"We try to match people with what need to be done in the community," said Hale. "If a person doesn't know where to start, we help them uncover their interests, talents and needs. We want to match volunteers with a service that makes them happy, and satisfied so they will want to stick with it."

Volunteer connections encourages newcomers to try out a job, and see how it feels. If it is not a good fit, the staff will keep working to find a good fit. Indeed, Hale explained that staff takes a great deal of personal time with new volunteers to help them understand what they want to do with their precious time, saying, "We want to know what inspires volunteers, and makes something a joy in their lives."

The Southwest Washington AmeriCorps VISTA program is the third program administrated by Hale's office. A federally funded program, it asks members to commit to full-time service in low-income communities.

With most of the local volunteer action related to RSVP or Volunteer Connections, serial-retiree (four times) Jones provided an interesting personal observation about how volunteering contributes to society by helping volunteers.

"I feel like many retired people get home, and get bored, and depressed," said Jones. "So I look for a volunteer job that will help them feel important, and contributing. It helps mental health."

For more information:
Volunteer Connections (RSVP, VISTA, Volunteer Center), 360-735-5705

120 NE 136th AveSuite 215Vancouver, WA98684PH 360.694.6577FAX 360.694.6716
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