United Way prepares for annual volunteer fair

HANCOCK COUNTY — Officials preparing for the 11th annual Volunteer Fair held in conjunction with National Volunteer Week are hoping to offer something that’s never been done before during the event — a live volunteer opportunity.

Jeannie Roberts, United Way of Central Indiana — Hancock County volunteer engagement coordinator, is organizing a United Way kit build to give visitors to the event a first-hand look at the difference they can make just by giving their time. United Way will provides supplies — think toiletries, household items or snacks — and volunteers will package the items together for people in need. This year’s volunteer fair, which typically draws about 200 people, is scheduled for 3 to 7 p.m. April 25 at the Hancock County Public Library, 900 W. McKenzie Road.

More than 30 county organizations and organizations serving Hancock County will convene at the library for one-stop volunteer shopping, where those interested in donating their time can choose from opportunities of all kinds, Roberts said.

The fair is conducted each year in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, a country-wide effort to encourage selfless acts of service.

“The best part of the volunteer fair is there are so many varied organizations that can provide information about their needs and goals face-to-face with prospective volunteers,” she said.

The list of people wanted includes retirees, people who work part time, young people, families and corporate and church groups — just to name a few, she said.

Roberts settled on the kit-building opportunity this year so people in serving their communities will get a taste of United Way’s work in a low-pressure environment, she said.

“A lot of younger people aren’t comfortable just walking into the volunteer fair,” she said. “They can be intimidated. This will help them explore the options and learn what we do.”

The organizations represented at the fair including large entities like the Red Cross, as well as smaller groups like Regreening Greenfield, which comprises about 15 people dedicated to planting and maintaining trees around Greenfield.

Sally Parsons, president of Regreening Greenfield, said her group is looking for people passionate about building a community identity around a lush city landscape.

Between 2004 and 2014, Greenfield lost 43 percent of its street trees to disease and removal because of utility issues, Parsons said; her organization is working to replace them.

“We’re a very small group, but we know there are people out there interested in those quality-of-life issues,” Parsons said. “Having more trees makes us a business and family-friendly atmosphere, and trees give us a strong sense of place.”

The annual event has become a way for many nonprofits to bridge the gaps in their service. The Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, for example, depends on a crew of volunteers to serve meals, clean tables and address other client needs.

The kitchen usually signs up about 15 new volunteers each year through the fair, said director Jill Ebbert.

“We absolutely wouldn’t miss it,” she said.

If you go

The 11th annual Volunteer Fair co-hosted by United Way of Central Indiana – Hancock County and the Hancock County Public Library will be held 3 to 7 p.m. April 25 at the library, 900 W. McKenzie Road, Greenfield.

The value of a volunteer

National Volunteer Week 2017 is slated for April 23-29. According to Independent Sector, an organization that hosts leadership programming, the value of an hour of volunteer time has risen from about $16 in 2004 to $23.56 in 2015.

“Volunteers are absolutely vital to these organizations,” said Jeannie Roberts, volunteer engagement coordinator for United Way of Central Indiana – Hancock County. “They would have to replace these hours with paid staff if they didn’t have the volunteers.”

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.