Valued volunteers: Woodstock will salute the people who give their time to others
It’s incalculable how many times a volunteer might have made a difference in someone’s life. Maybe it was that man or woman who delivered food to a local soup kitchen. Or that volunteer who helped families devastated by Tropical Storm Irene last year.
Perhaps it was the calming voice on the other end of the phone line that saved a desperate person from suicide or turned another in the direction of emergency shelter. They are the people with the gigantic hearts and willing spirits, and it’s their turn next week to be celebrated and thanked for all they do.
The occasion is the Eighth Annual Woodstock Volunteers’ Day. It’s happening Aug. 18 from 1 to 6 p.m. at Andy Lee Memorial Field on Rock City Road in Woodstock. The volunteers are treated to lunch, which is donated by area restaurants.
Besides honoring the town’s volunteers, which some say may number as high as 1,200 in 60 agencies, the mission of the Woodstock Volunteers’ Day is to “enhance the efforts” of the town’s organizations and “raise awareness about the wide circle of kindness and generosity in the town,” according to the website www.volunteersday.org.
“We applaud our volunteers and really appreciate the beauty that people bring when they come to help out others and their communities,” said Tamara Cooper, a founding member of Woodstock Volunteers’ Day.
She sees it firsthand every day as the program director of Family of Woodstock’s walk-in center and hotline program. Cooper estimates she has close to 70 volunteers at the Woodstock location.
Not only are they reliable and dedicated, but they’ve put themselves through a rigorous 34-hour training program to learn how to help people through difficult times. Once they complete the program, the volunteers are, among other things, equipped to handle immediate short-term crisis intervention that includes counseling or make referrals for those in need.
“We would not be able to open our doors in the way we do now if we didn’t have volunteers,” Cooper said.
Family of Woodstock at 16 Rock City Road is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to Cooper, and volunteers play a pivotal role in its day-to-day function. One of the greatest ways they are put to use at Family of Woodstock is in its domestic violence services.
The agency provides emergency shelter, nonresidential counseling, public education and even offers a program for batterers called Evolve. Continued...
“Our volunteers take initial calls and help direct people to those next steps or they may take the call from a woman or a man reaching out for help for the first time,” Cooper said. Those who do volunteer at Family of Woodstock range in age from 18 to 91, she said.
The agency itself handles close to 10,000 “contacts” each year, she added.
“Again, we couldn’t do this without volunteers,” Cooper said.
“In a time of economic recession and downsizing … programs that deal with human beings and the challenges that life sometimes presents, it’s so essential now that we have volunteers and well-trained volunteers.”
Not only will Cooper’s volunteers be among those honored next Saturday, but so will those from more than 60 agencies. Beth McLendon’s helpers will be among them.
McLendon is the director at UlsterCorps, an agency founded by volunteers to bring other volunteers together with organizations in Ulster County that rely on their help. Since it started in 2009, UlsterCorps has connected thousands of people with dozens of Ulster County agencies that provide food, clothing and shelter, as well as emergency services, literacy training and child and elder care.
McLendon said she has a mailing list of more than 2,500 volunteers and an active corps of about 400 people. Some of the volunteer work is short-term, while other projects require more time, she added.
Many volunteer opportunities are also unique such as Harvesting a Lifetime, a project in which volunteers interview and record the stories and memories of Ulster County’s senior citizens as a way to preserve oral history.
McLendon said, overall, without volunteers, most agencies would cease to exist.
The concept of Woodstock Volunteers’ Day is such a good one that McLendon and other organizers have decided to throw a similar event for volunteers countywide. It will take place on Sept. 8 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Epworth Retreat Center in High Falls. Continued...
“People giving back to the community, especially in hard times like these, is absolutely critical, and we want them to feel appreciated,” McLendon said.
The Woodstock Volunteers’ Day is combined with the town picnic and a music festival from 1 to 5 p.m. that will feature performances ranging from the Boyerstock Band All Stars to the Lindsey Webster Band.
For more information, go to www.volunteersday.org
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