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How does a volunteer coordinator’s job change around the holidays?
BRETT WINTER LEMON | Special to The Roanoke Times
Leslie Littlefield: “I get three to four times the increase in phone calls from folks wanting to volunteer. That starts November first and goes through Christmas, so it definitely is a much busier time for us, which is good because we have some other activities besides the normal stuff going on.”
Sunday, December 16, 2012
The phone in Leslie Littlefield's office has been ringing off the hook this holiday season with volunteers looking to help at the Rescue Mission in Roanoke. Her job is to organize energetic citizens into meal-servers and gift-wrappers, and to recruit volunteers for jobs that are tougher to fill.
Before Littlefield became a volunteer coordinator, she worked as an industrial engineer in the cosmetic manufacturing business for 23 years. She began volunteering at the Rescue Mission through the Eve Network, a women's business group of volunteers. She became so involved that when the previous volunteer coordinator retired, the CEO asked Littlefield to join the staff.
Littlefield talked recently about managing volunteers, and about the importance of giving time to charity all year round. And since this really is her busiest time of year, she answered this question: How does a volunteer coordinator's job change around the holidays?
"I get three to four times the increase in phone calls from folks wanting to volunteer. That starts November first and goes through Christmas, so it definitely is a much busier time for us, which is good because we have some other activities besides the normal stuff going on. Such as the Drumstick Dash - that's huge. I had to fill 400 volunteer slots for that. On the same day we have a Thanksgiving feast, which is a midday meal, and I had to fill a little over 100 volunteer slots for that. ... Just on Thanksgiving Day, which is the biggest volunteer day at the rescue mission, I had over 500 volunteer slots that I had to fill. So it's good that I get the phone calls because I have a big need for that. Around Christmas we have things going on where we're doing some gift-wrapping ... so I need volunteers around that time too. That fills up pretty early; I'm already full for that.
"I typically don't have to recruit, but it can be up to a couple days prior to the event where I'm still filling volunteer slots, but it always gets done. I'll advertise the Drumstick Dash because that's pretty huge.
"The recruiting that I do is if I have a shortage somewhere. The Rescue Mission really is blessed because my phone rings all day long, and it rings off the hook in November and December. So there are a few tight spots I have to really try and recruit for, such as breakfast, which is 5:30 to 8 in the morning, so it takes a special person to do that. There are some volunteer spots that are a little bit unique and we are looking for a specific person. Volunteer receptionists are the face of the mission, so that's a special person we're looking for. We've got transporters that are driving our vehicles. ... We have a medical, dental, vision and psych clinic, and you have to be a health professional, so that's a little unique, too. But the entry-level kind of stuff would be food service, thrift store, some things in children's ministry that most anybody could do.
"When the economy took a downturn, I started getting calls from volunteers who said, 'I'm out of work, I'm looking for work, but I want to make use of my time. Can I spend some time volunteering here?' For many of those, it was a short-term thing until they found a job, but most of them would come on a regular basis and volunteer here once or twice a week. In the meantime as well, the services increased in our shelter from nights of lodging, to food services, to clinic. ... They sort of go hand in hand.
"The hardest part of my job, that's more personal, is trying to manage my time while I'm here because this could be a 24-hour-a-day job. The hardest part of my job I guess would be multi-tasking. I also write the grants here, so writing the grants, fitting that in with deadlines in between the volunteering can be a little challenging sometimes.
"I would encourage volunteers to look at volunteering not just over the holidays, but all year 'round, because the Rescue Mission is 24-7. ... For most volunteers, what they will say is they got more out of it than they gave. The feeling of giving back to them is well worth their time volunteering here.
"For the Rescue Mission, the almost 112,000 [volunteer] hours [per year] represent about the equivalent of 55 full-time people. But what it really represents is about 5,000 individuals who come to the Rescue Mission. ... Some people come several times a week and serve lunch or whatever, and then we have everything in between - a few times a year, then people that serve just one time a year and that may be the only time you see them. So it represents a lot of people across all genders and sexes and ages and interests.
"We feel at the Rescue Mission that the Rescue Mission is sort of a quilt of colors and people and fabrics from all walks of life. It's a place where we can find just about anybody a place to volunteer, and hopefully a good fit where they feel that they are using their gifts and sharing with others."
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