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Fair puts agencies, volunteers together

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GREENFIELD — Helping hands and the agencies that can put them to work will have the perfect opportunity to find one another next week at the Hancock County Volunteer Fair.

Area residents are invited to visit the Hancock County Public Library from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to meet and mingle with representatives from area nonprofit organizations offering volunteer opportunities. The eighth annual event, held in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, is co-sponsored by the library, United Way of Central Indiana and Leadership Hancock County.

The event will feature 25 nonprofit organizations whose representatives will be on hand to talk with potential volunteers about opportunities to serve. There will be volunteer positions for youth and adults.

The volunteer fair originated as a project of Leadership Hancock County, a program that exposes participants to key community issues and then challenges them to develop a project aimed at solving a local problem.

The fair provides one-stop shopping not just for individuals but church, Scouting and other community groups that are seeking ways to get plugged in to volunteer opportunities, said Jeannie Roberts, volunteer engagement coordinator for United Way of Hancock County.

“They can kind of sort through it more easily here,” she said. “I think that’s what sets us apart.”

By speaking with nonprofit leaders, volunteers will have the chance to meet those they’d be working with as they research what position best fits their skill set.

Some nonprofits will also be recruiting volunteers to fill open positions on their boards of directors as well, which offers a more permanent opportunity to have an impact on agency operations, Roberts said.

Nancy Rubino, executive director of P.A.W.S. (Partners for Animal Welfare Society), has participated in the event for several years, and she’ll be there Wednesday with a specific list of needs.

P.A.W.S., a nonprofit animal rescue group that takes in about 300 cats and dogs each year, is operated entirely by volunteers, Rubino said. The annual volunteer fair provides a chance to bring in additional help to lighten everyone’s load.

Rubino said the fair has connected her with multiple volunteers, some of whom have stayed with P.A.W.S. for years. The agency’s needs this year include volunteers to serve as foster parents for dogs that are rescued and animal-lovers with enough spare time to dedicate to bottle-feeding kittens.

Mary Lynn Burrows, volunteer coordinator for the library, said organizers have tweaked the fair each year since its inception to find what works best for both the agencies and visitors.

The fair attracted 215 people last year, a jump over the 123 who attended in 2012.

Today, Burrows said the event has become a family affair.

“A lot of parents and kids come together,” she said. “It’s really neat.”

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