; Your World
Up and At ’Em
Lori Garbacz, 50, Brooklyn, N. Y.
Lost her job as an event planner
with financial firm last July. Signed
on as volunteer leader with New
York Cares, planning projects—
at schools, community gardens,
involve dozens of volunteers. Also
walks dogs at animal shelter. “
Volunteering gets you out of bed in
the morning.” Still focused on
finding a paying job, but “not just
sitting around waiting for something to happen.”
ago, the group had 27,000 volunteers. This year, it anticipates 50,000.
In the group’s surveys of recent volunteers, “one in five say they were
motivated by President Obama’s call to service,” Bagley adds. “The rest
just see the need all around them now and want to help.”
The outpouring of free labor does come with some complications.
Taproot, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that organizes skilled professionals to work for charities, saw its volunteers increase by 122 percent
last year—even though it had stopped actively recruiting. Without more
money to train and manage the surge of volunteers, “this will be a missed
opportunity” for charities, says Lindsay Firestone, who manages pro bono
projects for Taproot. “This is a make-or-break time. We need to channel
and leverage this great volunteer response.”
To that end, many non- profits are pinning their hopes on sweeping legislation that Obama
signed in April with great fanfare. The law, the Edward M.
Kennedy Serve America Act,
is the largest expansion of national service since President
John F. Kennedy came up with
the idea for the Peace Corps
The act will add tens of
thousands of new positions,
including ones for older
Americans, to AmeriCorps,
the national volunteer service
agency. Just as important, it
will also provide money to
charities across the country to train and oversee more volunteers.
AARP strongly backed the legislation. Tom Nelson, chief operating officer, says the law will “strengthen and expand volunteer opportunities
at a time when many communities are in great need.” Indeed, the recession’s huge impact on volunteer enrollment “needs to be met with good
organization, and this legislation should help nonprofits do that,” agrees
John Gomperts, president of Civic Ventures, a nonprofit that works with
For unemployed people such as Bob Schroder, volunteering is a way to
hone skills, add to resumés, network and garner new experiences.
Before he was laid off, Schroder was an emergency response manager
for Qwest, co-coordinating the company’s response to disasters like hurricanes, floods and fires that affected communications. “With the Red
Cross, I’m using my job skills, but in a new way,” he says. “It makes me
feel like I’m contributing.” At the same time, he adds, “I work with people
in my field and can network.”
But however rich and rewarding the
experience might be, Schroder is a realist. Every morning, he rises at 5 to
continue his search for a new job. ;
Susan Weller, 50, Chicago
Laid off as a marketing director a year ago.
Since last summer has
volunteered with a
charity that trains disadvantaged people for
jobs. Regained self-confidence that persuaded
her to start her own
Volunteering can help you better
It can get your momentum back.”
Geoff Hibner, 59, Neenah, Wis.
His position as CFO for billion-
dollar printing company was elimi-
nated when company was acquired
by larger firm. Had been following
town issues: “I’m interested in
sound financial management, so I
got involved.” Began offering more
expertise to town board of supervi-
sors. In April ran for seat and won.
New volunteer position won’t
interfere with job search.
Lydia Rainer, 59, Springfield, Va.
Worked as publisher’s sales rep
for 13 years before division was
closed last summer: “The bottom
dropped out of my life.” Already
director of tutoring program at a
local Baptist church, she told the
pastor, “I’ll help do more.” Now,
while job-hunting, does whatever
the church needs—driving people
to doctor visits, calling on hospital
patients and more.
More on volunteering at:
20 AARP BULLE TIN JUNE 2009