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Thursday, May 24, 2012 02:32 pm

Calling all volunteers

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A Habitat for Humanity volunteer helps with the construction of a house located at 821 W. Washington in Springfield.
PHOTO BY NEIL SCHNEIDER

With summer rapidly approaching, Springfield residents will be planning various ways to spend their summer through activities like vacations and traveling. So, why not plan on spending a little time volunteering around Springfield?


For all ages

Individuals looking for volunteer opportunities this summer that will allow them to be outdoors should consider volunteering for Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County.

Sarah Mackey, executive director of the HFH of Sangamon County, said the organization welcomes volunteers of all ages and skill levels, by providing them with training and a variety of volunteer opportunities.

“We offer orientations for all our volunteers, which are held at various times and locations throughout the summer months, where individuals can learn what volunteer opportunities we have and how they can get involved,” Mackey said.

Volunteer opportunities at HFH include working at construction sites, where volunteers can learn about the “home construction process.” Other volunteer opportunities include landscaping and gardening, distributing food and drinks to volunteers at construction sites, accepting and organizing donated home supplies at the Habitat for Humanity Restore and assisting with office operations at the Restore.

Mackey said by volunteering at HFH, volunteers have a chance to take away skills from the projects that they will be able to use in their everyday lives.

“The volunteers can learn how to make basic repairs to their homes,” Mackey said. “They can learn to put siding on a house, so if a windstorm comes along, they will know how make that repair and save money by not calling a repair person.”

For more information or to volunteer visit www.habitatsangamon.com.

Downtown Springfield, Inc. also offers volunteer opportunities for all ages during the summer months, which allow individuals to get outside and participate within the Springfield community.

Victoria Ringer, executive director of DSI, said two of the largest volunteer opportunities include The Taste of Downtown (July 6 and 7) and the Old Capitol Blues & BBQs (Aug. 26 and 27) event.

Volunteers of Downtown Springfield, Inc. working with a vendor at Taste of Downtown 2011.
PHOTO COURTESY DOWNTOWN SPRINGFIELD, INC.


“For the Taste of Downtown, we usually have up to 200 volunteers for those events, where the volunteers do things like carrying ice, selling sodas, working in the children’s areas and a variety of other things,” Ringer said.

Ringer said the responsibilities for the Old Capitol Blues and BBQs event is similar to the Taste of Downtown, but volunteers also get to participate in a pre-party and receive various items for their volunteer efforts.

Also in Springfield’s downtown area, the Old State Capitol building offers a diverse range of volunteer opportunities that include greeting and giving tours to visitors, assisting in lawn maintenance and performing in historical shows for visitors.

Justin Blandford, site manager of the Old State Capitol, said one of the more interesting volunteering opportunities is the History Comes Alive program.

“These volunteers get to dress in different historical periods of clothing, which provide an extra layer of history education by being able to help guests learn more about the people who lived and worked in Springfield during that period,” Blandford.

Blandford said volunteers interested in being outdoors also could get involved with the gardening operations at the Old State Capitol building and the Vachel Lindsay Home.

“These volunteers would primarily be outside with us, helping to make both buildings look as nice as they can be,” Blandford said.

Blandford said, perhaps, the best thing about volunteering at the Old State Capitol building is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.

“That is one of the greatest perks of being in this type of environment,” Blandford said. “You never know who is going to be on the other side of a door or who is going to come up and ask a question during one of our demonstrations. You get the benefit of meeting people from all over the world, who share a common interest with us in either Abraham Lincoln, mid-19th century history, or who just have a general interest in our city, which really can be a lot of fun for everyone.”

Francie Staggs presents history education material to a group touring the Old State Capitol.
PHOTO COURTESY THE OLD STATE CAPITOL


Volunteering opportunities for the elderly   

Jennifer Phillips, project director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program for Sangamon, Logan and Menard counties, said RSVP offers volunteer opportunities primarily for the elderly community.

Volunteers at RSVP would get a chance to work at a variety of places in Springfield, including Memorial Medical Center, St. John’s Hospital and the Senior Services Center. Volunteer responsibilities include providing transportation to seniors, working in the SSC gift shop and playing games with seniors at the SSC.

“Our volunteers take part in a lot activities like working in the gift shop, making ceramics with our seniors, giving tours at the historic sites around town and some are also part of our entertainment groups, which go to local nursing homes and entertain the seniors,” Jennifer Phillips.

Gay Stinnett is executive director of the Branford Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of integrative therapies and alternative medicines. She is also involved with coordinating volunteers for the Simmons Cancer Institute. She said many of the volunteers at these organizations serve as guides.

The guides primarily assist and direct visitors to various locations throughout the organizations.

Stinnett said the time volunteers put into these various organizations is invaluable.

“Our time is one of the most precious things we (volunteers) have to offer, but we also learn things and help people along the way. So, often the volunteers can take away more from the experience then they put in,” Stinnett said.

Contact Neil Schneider at nschneider@illinoistimes.com.

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