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Organizations hope show recruits more volunteers

POSTED: December 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA /The Times

American Red Cross preparedness instructor Joseph Weaver hands a sticker to Haley Van Steenbergh, 7, who came to the Hall County Parks and Leisure Services Volunteer Opportunity Tradeshow on Tuesday at the South Hall Community Center with her mother, Susan Van Steenbergh, left, and brother, Sean.

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OAKWOOD — Unlike job fairs, Tuesday’s Volunteer Opportunity Tradeshow aimed to tap into the market of people wanting to donate their time rather than get something for it.

Roz Schmitt, assistant program coordinator at the South Hall Community Center on Atlanta Highway, pushed the show. She "thought it was a good idea to let residents know what’s out there and how to give back."

Twelve area organizations sent representatives to the free, four-hour event at the center, which is run by Hall County Parks and Leisure Services.

They set up displays, handed out information and spoke with visitors passing from table to table.

The organizations also brought free gifts that were handed out as door prizes.

"People right now might not have extra (money to give away), but they might be able to donate ... an hour a week or month," Schmitt said. "... And I think there are a lot of volunteer opportunities out there that people aren’t aware of."

Ralph Carey of Gainesville said he and his wife are at an age and income level "that we need something to fill up time, and (volunteering) is a good way to do that."

His wife was unable to attend the event, so he picked up materials for the both of them. He said they plan to go over the information together and decide from there what they’ll do.

The U.S. Navy retiree said he has a real estate and accounting background, and his wife has a degree in recreation management.

Carey said he is not sure what type of volunteer work he’s leaning toward.

"I just don’t want to be on my feet very much," he said. "My back and my knees aren’t up to it."

Susan Van Steenbergh, who brought her two young children with her to the center, said that now that her 5-year-old son, Sean, is in kindergarten, she has some free time on her hands.

She also is considering part-time work, "but it’s hard to find a job that fits around the school day."

A social worker before she became a stay-at-home mom, Van Steenbergh said she was interested particularly in hospital work or doing something at the Gateway Domestic Violence Center.

"The holidays are busy, but I’ll need something to do after that," she said.

Joseph Weaver got more than he bargained for after he started volunteering for the American Red Cross.

He started working there two years ago, later teaching classes, when he met his future wife, Beth, also a volunteer. They got married a year later.

Tuesday, they were talking up the Red Cross to people stopping at their table.

"We have three instructors who are active and we really need more," Joseph said. "If we could encourage people in the community to get involved, it would be to become Red Cross instructors."

Marvin and Cleda Locey were hoping to sway people to give their time for the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University.

There, Marvin serves as a guide and Cleda answers the phone and greets visitors at the front desk. Both serve on the center’s board, with Cleda as its secretary.

They said the center, which has two full-time employees, needs to fill many jobs.

Sitting at the front desk is one of the most urgent needs.

"It can be a boring job," Marvin said.

"But it’s very important," Cleda finished. "You have to have a visible presence to greet people and answer their questions."



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