Volunteers provide service

PARKERSBURG – For many local organizations and programs, volunteers play a vital role in providing service and support in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Anything – from one hour a month to 10 hours a week to four hours a day – can be helpful to a group, organization or individual working to provide support or services or to conduct a special event or program.

“There’s no such thing as ‘too little time to volunteer,'” said Katy Sulfridge, executive director of the Volunteer Action Center in Parkersburg, adding that any amount of time someone is willing to give is beneficial.

Many options are available locally for someone looking to give of their time, ranging from church activities to school programs to support organizations. The VAC is one of those options, with the added benefit of working with a variety of different groups that need a wide range of volunteer skills.

“The mission of the Volunteer Action Center is to connect people with service and we do that in a variety ways,” Sulfridge said.

The VAC has several programs it operates, including FaithLink, the Child Care Food Program, West Virginia 2-1-1, Volunteer WV and the Center for Community Service Agencies.

“What we like to try to do is make sure that either folks looking to volunteer have the opportunity to do so, or agencies and organizations that need help getting volunteers have an outlet to come to when they need some volunteers,” she said.

One of the largest programs at the VAC is the FaithLink program, which works to provide support for seniors to stay in their homes longer by providing services like transportation and light housekeeping. She estimated about 150 people volunteer their time for that program to serve the growing number of care receivers.

The VAC also works with other area programs and agencies in need of volunteers to provide support and connections with people interested in volunteering their time in the community, Sulfridge said.

The VAC also has space available at its offices in the Dils Center that is available for rental at low rates. Individuals and programs needing office space can come to the center and pool resources with others, sharing overhead costs like utilities, supplies and services like reception and custodial.

Among the programs at the VAC participating in that program are the West Virginia Aging and Disability Resource Center, Catholic Charities, the Gabriel Project and Wellspring Family Services, along with a couple of small businesses.

“We do have plenty of rental space left, so if there are other non-profits looking for a move, they can talk with me and we will show them different size spaces that come with it. They also have use of a big conference room, which is hard find sometimes if you are in a little space,” she said.

Sulfridge said the VAC works with people interested in volunteering to find what they can do, what they want to do and how much time they want to give. In addition to helping the volunteers, it helps provide a database for those seeking volunteer help to find the best fit for their needs, she said.

Among those working through the VAC and volunteering their time is Dick Noel, of Vienna.

Noel became involved in the VAC about five years ago, following his retirement in January 2009. While working, Noel said he knew there were people and organizations that could use help and when he retired, he felt he finally had the time available to devote to providing assistance.

There are lot of volunteer opportunities available in the community, but his main interest was in two of the programs at the VAC, FaithLink and the Gabriel Project.

“I knew they operated out of the Volunteer Action Center, so when I was ready to contact them about doing volunteer work, I came down here,” he said, referring to the VAC.

In the Faithlink program, Noel volunteers to provide transportation to seniors for medical appointments, grocery trips and other errands.

The Gabriel Project works to provide assistance to young mothers with baby clothing, diapers and other supplies, along with other types of assistance. Each Thursday, Noel goes to the program’s storage area in the St. Francis Xavier Parish Hall to prepare the materials for people to pick up.

He volunteers about 20 hours a month through the two programs.

“I feel like I’m providing assistance to people who need it,” Noel said, adding the transportation work he does for FaithLink helps him meet and get to know many interesting people.

Janet Mongilio, of Parkersburg, has been volunteering at the VAC since 2008. She became involved after reading a notice in the newspaper seeking volunteers at the VAC for different tasks and programs and saw a notice for a website manager or designer.

“Since that’s a hobby of mine – I’m kind of self-taught in web design and HTML programming- I thought it would be kind of fun to help out with that and see if I could help them redesign their site and maintain it,” she said.

Since coming to the VAC, Mongilio has helped redesign, update and maintain the VAC’s website and worked to incorporate links from other programs and organizations that work with the center. She generally spends a couple hours each week working on the website and related programs.

“My involvement is primarily doing the design, the development, the maintenance, the updates and the graphics – in my limited capabilities,” she said with a laugh.

Still without formal computer training, Mongilio said she continues to give her time to improving her own knowledge and skills through online programs and tutorials so she can continue helping the VAC.

Outside of her work with the VAC, Mongilio also volunteers her time for booster activities for her children’s school programs.

“I just want to help where I can, to use my skills that I have to help out, to give back and help further some of the needs in the community,” she said.

Mongilio said she is “extremely supportive” of the VAC and its efforts in the community.

“I think it’s a perfect central hub and that’s what I liked about it when I was looking for volunteer opportunities,” she said.

For Penny Weekley, of Parkersburg, her volunteer work was a combination of interest and necessity. She is currently majoring in elementary education at West Virginia University at Parkersburg and as part of the requirements for the field, she must have 100 community service hours.

In addition to volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association in Parkersburg, Weekley also started volunteering at the VAC last fall and this spring. She comes in weekly to help with reception duties, including handling phone calls to the agency.

During the spring, Weekley also helped Mary Rader, program coordinator for the VAC’s 2-1-1 program, to gather information on all of the volunteer agencies at the VAC for use on the 2-1-1 referral website.

“I enjoyed volunteering there, and I would love to volunteer again, should I have time,” Weekley said of her time at the VAC, adding her classload and other factors have cut down on the time she can presently give for volunteerism. “They were wonderful to work with and let me chose my own hours.”