Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall was abuzz April 16 with over 120 people curious to see how they might be able to lend a hand as a volunteer for one of 21 Sonoma Valley nonprofits. Organized by the Sonoma Valley Executive Director Roundtable, Volunteer Sonoma! provided a wonderful way for local nonprofits to showcase their programs and chat with residents about their volunteer needs and ways to become involved with their organizations.
The Sonoma Valley Sun, Whole Foods, the Community Foundation Sonoma County and Rabobank helped to sponsor Volunteer Sonoma!
Sonoma Mayor Tom Rouse presented a proclamation at the event, declaring April 16, 2014 as Volunteer Day Sonoma, and stated, “I want to salute our dedicated volunteers and celebrate the contributions they make to the community.” He then added, “Every day is Volunteer Day in Sonoma…This should really be National Volunteer Year, celebrated from April 16, 2014 to forever!”
Event organizers, local nonprofit Executive Directors Barbara Cullen, Nancy King, Dierdre Sheerin, and Kathy Witkowicki, were on hand to accept the official proclamation.
All 21 of the participating nonprofits sent senior level staff to the event that included executive directors and volunteer coordinators, as well as some board members.
Marcie Waldron, tireless local volunteer and current board member of Vintage House, Sonoma Community Center, and WillMar Family Grief & Healing Center, commented, “Everyone here seems genuinely interested in volunteering. I noticed that every organization’s sign-up list had names on it. What a wonderful community!”
In addition to sign-up sheets, the nonprofits provided literature that included detailed descriptions of volunteer needs, volunteer roles and responsibilities, qualifications required to serve as a volunteer, expected time commitment, and information about the training they provide for new volunteers.
Marlena Schudy and Marietta Kim of Umpqua Bank, newly opened in Sonoma April 18, attended the event because they were interested in seeing the types of volunteer opportunities that might be available for them. Schudy, a 15-year Sonoma Valley resident said, “It’s such a great opportunity to be able to able to volunteer for any one of these programs…it’s all about being part of the community…it’s very inspiring.” Kim said, “I’m fairly new to the community so I just want to get an idea of what’s out there…I want to be a part of my new community.” Both women visited all of the nonprofits’ sign-up tables and determined that the Sonoma Ecology Center, Sweetwater Spectrum, Sonoma Valley Teen Services, and the Sonoma International Film festival seemed the most appealing to them.
Susie Phillips, Sweetwater Spectrum’s Enrichment Coordinator, attended for a very different reason. She attended because she is looking for volunteer opportunities for the adult residents of Sweetwater Spectrum who have autism. Philips said, “We want our residents to become a part of the community. One of the problems with autism is isolation. We want them to be able to integrate with the community and enrich their lives by finding volunteer opportunities that are purposeful to them.”
Nonprofit organizations need volunteers more than ever. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in February 2014 that the national volunteer rate declined by 1.1 percentage points to 25.4 percent for the year ending September 2013. That means slightly more than one in four Americans volunteer their time. About 62.6 million people volunteered for an organization at least once between September 2012 and September 2013, the lowest volunteer rate since the Bureau of Labor Statistics first started measuring volunteer participation in 2002. Slightly over 28 percent of women volunteer, compared to just 22 percent of men. Those most likely to volunteer, at slightly over 30 percent, are 35- to 44-year-olds, compared to the lowest age group of volunteers, 20- to 24-year olds, who volunteer at only 18.5 percent. For persons 45 years and over, the volunteer rate tapers off as age increases. Teens have a volunteer rate of 26.2 percent.
If you didn’t attend Volunteer Sonoma! it’s not too late to consider volunteering for a local nonprofit organization that recruited at the event. Just call one of the following Volunteer Sonoma! participants and ask to speak with the person who coordinates their volunteer activities: Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley; Jack London State Historic Park/Valley of the Moon Natural History Association; La Luz Center; Pets Lifeline; Quarryhill Botanical Garden; Seeds of Learning; Sonoma Community Center; Sonoma Ecology Center; Sonoma International Film Festival; Sonoma Theatre Alliance; Sonoma Valley Health Center; Sonoma Valley Education Foundation; Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation; Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance; Sonoma Valley Museum of Art; Sonoma Valley Teen Services; Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau; Sweetwater Spectrum; Transcendence Theatre Company; Vintage House; and WillMar Family Grief & Healing Center.
Dr. B.J. Bischoff is the owner of Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, a Sonoma firm specializing in building the capacity of nonprofit organizations and public sector agencies to better serve their stakeholders. She assists her clients with strategic planning, training resulting in performance improvement, fund development, and community relations. She is Past President of Impact100 Sonoma and provides assistance to the Sonoma County Department of Human Services in its implementation of the Sonoma County Upstream Investments initiative. [email protected]