GREENFIELD — Meghan Brown, 13, entered the community room at Hancock County Public Library and headed straight for a booth in the corner.
She was looking for volunteer opportunities when she found Tony, a young terrier mix available for adoption at the Partners for Animal Welfare Society table.
While petting her new pal, the Greenfield resident learned how she could help the local nonprofit through a variety of volunteer opportunities it offers.
The ninth annual Hancock County Volunteer fair on Wednesday brought together helping hands and the agencies that need them.
Area residents looking for volunteer opportunities were able to mix and mingle with Hancock County nonproft organizations.
Hosted by the library, United Way of Central Indiana and Leadership Hancock County, the fair provided a one-stop shop for individuals and groups seeking ways to give back to the community. The event is conducted each year in conjunction with National Volunteer Week and originated in 2006 as a Leadership Hancock County project to help nonprofits find volunteers.
Many residents aren’t aware of how many volunteer opportunities exist in Hancock County, and nonprofits sometimes struggle to find people willing to help out, said Jeannie Roberts, volunteer engagement coordinator for United Way of Hancock County.
The fair brings the two together, she said.
“Volunteers are truly the heart of the community. Without those volunteers, there are many things that could not be accomplished,” she said. “Having this chance to get these volunteers to help them is absolutely priceless for these organizations.”
Meghan found the event helpful because there were a variety of nonprofits all in one place.
She is a Girl Scout and a member of her school’s National Junior Honor Society. Community service components are part of both programs, but that’s a requirement Meghan has always enjoyed.
“It’s just really fun, and I like helping out,” she said.
She loves animals but was looking for multiple volunteer opportunities, which led her to reluctantly leave Tony behind — but not before trying to persuade her mother to adopt the pup.
At Wednesday’s fair, Jordyn Bever represented the Destiny Color Guard, a program she started seven years ago when she was a student at Greenfield-Central High School.
Destiny Color Guard is open to young adults living with disabilities and meets from late fall to early spring. The participants work with volunteers to learn a color guard routine, which they perform at sporting events and other events throughout the season.
Bever, a junior at the University of Indianapolis, depends on volunteers for everything from sewing flags to keeping practices running smoothly. Meanwhile, the volunteers form bonds with people they might not otherwise have met. The volunteer fair gives willing helpers a chance not only to give back to the community but the opportunity to learn more about themselves and those they’re assisting. Bever said she’s watched it happen time and again in her program.
“I can’t even list all of the rewards,” Bever said. “I’ve heard account after account of our volunteers just having their lives changed. Their eyes have been totally opened.”
Judy Ahring, a hospice volunteer at Kindred at Home, said volunteers are essential to the organization’s operations. Kindred offers a number of opportunities to help out, including participating in the pet therapy program and offering friendly visits to residents.
It’s important for the group to find volunteers because they help lift the spirits of hospice patients, she said.
“Their families, many times, work or live far away and can’t be there,” she said. “It makes the people you visit very, very happy and helps them live longer.”
Roberts said the fair offered commitments that can fit into anyone’s schedule.
Some organizations were looking for volunteers to provide regular services, while others could make do with occasional help. Other nonprofits were recruiting volunteers to fill open positions on their boards of directors, which offers a more permanent opportunity to have an impact on agency operations.
“It’s highly likely that anyone can find something that interests them,” Roberts said.
Hannah Rush, 17, a New Palestine High School student, is part of the United Way of Central Indiana Youth as Resources program and said she is always looking for other ways to give back to her community. At the fair, she found a variety of opportunities to put her helping hands to use.
“It has something for anyone who wants to volunteer,” she said. “There are so many outlets for people to put their skills to work.”
Next year, the event will mark its 10th anniversary, and plans are already underway to celebrate, Roberts said.
“We’ve had so much fun with this. It’s a very uplifting event for everyone to see,” she said. “People go away with a really good feeling.”
Are you looking for volunteer opportunities in Hancock County but missed the volunteer fair?
Contact Jeannie Roberts at United Way of Central Indiana by calling 317-477-2345 or emailing her at email@example.com. She can help individuals or groups find volunteer work that fits their schedules.