City groups need volunteers’ help

As summer wanes, the need for help
revs up at agencies.
Thursday, August 17, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:34 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

The return of college students and the end of the vacation season signal the start of the busy season for volunteer offices.

Historically, the summer is the slowest time of year.

“We have to scramble to get volunteers,” Cindy Mustard, director of the Voluntary Action Center, said.

Leigh Nutter of the city Office of Volunteer Services said there are fewer city-sponsored events in the summer that require volunteer help.

“Students leave and permanent residents are quieter, taking vacations and spending time with their kids,” she said.

With the Heritage Festival and the Festival of the Arts scheduled for September, fall represents two major events for both offices. Outreach involves keeping in touch with former and regular volunteers, setting up informational sessions around the city and at schools and sending fliers to organizations.

“Many people also find us on the Internet,” Nutter said. “In the six years I’ve been here, we continue to see this trend increase.”

The city office works primarily with city programs and occasionally with programs in which the city is a major sponsor; the Voluntary Action Center works with more than 200 community agencies and nonprofit groups.

“Leigh and I work together on lots of things,” Mustard said.

Even though there are many nonstudent volunteers in the community, “many youth programs, like Big Brothers Big Sisters, count on student volunteers,” Mustard said. “They are good mentors and role models for the youth.”

According to the 2002-05 Volunteering in America: State Trends and Rankings Report compiled by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the state of Missouri is ranked ninth for college student volunteering, 17th for young adults and 20th overall in the nation.

“We have a big responsibility here,” Nutter said. “We like to keep control of where our volunteers go and how their skills are used. We want to make sure we are taking care of our volunteers and that they have a valuable experience.”

The city estimates that 40,000 hours are given collectively by 2,500 volunteers annually through its office. The Voluntary Action Center estimates that last year 72,103 volunteers served in Columbia for 1.7 million hours.

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