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Economy having effect on volunteerism in western Colorado

John Stroud
jstroud@postindependent.com
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post IndependentTrish Hittinger is a familiar volunteer at Glenwood Springs Elementary School.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Wendy Moffat admits she might have less time to volunteer in western Colorado if she gets that part-time job she’s going after.

Though not directly related to the current economic slump, she is looking for something to bring in additional income.

It’s a lifestyle change that may require some adjustments in Moffat’s usual routine, which now includes a fair amount of volunteer work for organizations ranging from her church to community radio station KDNK.

“As I look into my crystal ball I am actually anticipating that I will have to shift some of my time around,” Moffat said. “I might not be able to do things at the drop of a hat as easily.”

The economic downturn can impact the amount of time people give in the community, as people adjust to changes in their employment and work situations.

KDNK membership and volunteer coordinator Cindy Blachly said she’s sometimes hesitant to call people for help right now.

“There are people who normally give very freely of their time who are now out looking for work,” she said. “They can be torn between wanting to volunteer, but needing to be paid for those hours they freely gave away before. I always try to be considerate of their time.”

Still, KDNK didn’t have any problem lining up enough volunteers to help with its recent membership drive. The station even met its fundraising goal of $50,000, even though it took a few extra days beyond the usual week-long pledge drive.

“I have also had people say that they’ve been thinking of being a DJ but didn’t have the time before. But now they have more time,” Blachly said. “People are thinking more creatively about how they use their time.”

Another place where volunteering remains healthy is in the local schools.

“Honestly, we have a nice, solid group of parents who volunteer every week, and I haven’t seen that change,” said Glenwood Springs Elementary School Principal Sonya Hemmen. “They are really great, and there’s a lot of commitment there.”

Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association Director Marianne Virgili said it’s true that, while some people might have less time to give in difficult economic times, others may find that they have extra time on their hands.

And, getting out in the community and volunteering can be a good way for someone who is looking for paid work to network and maybe land a job, she said.

“Volunteering can be a good way to make use of your time between jobs,” Virgili said. “It’s good for the organization needing volunteer help, as well as the volunteers themselves because they’re giving back to the community.

“It’s probably a little different than it was a few months ago when people were so time deprived,” she added.

Whether it’s helping at the local blood drive, health fair or community event, volunteering can be a good way to spend that extra time.

“I think people see a need for more interaction during tough times,” Virgili said. “Attendance at our mixers has been way up. People are craving that again.”

Moffat agrees, and said volunteering is an important part of the community fabric.

“I see volunteering as a vital part of life, and for me it will continue to be a priority,” she said. “I just do it because I love the organizations I volunteer for. It’s one way to share my passion, and I hope other people would think about doing the same.”

Christine Nolen is a former executive director and current board member for Aspen-based Executive Service Corps, which works with nonprofit organizations throughout the valley on a variety of needs, including board development and volunteer recruitment.

“I have noticed that volunteerism is surprisingly strong right now,” she said. “It does seem that some people, whether it’s willingly or purposely, or not, do have more time.”

And, difficult times tend to bring people together. So, community volunteering can even be therapeutic, she said.

“It’s an interesting American trait that when it comes to difficult socio-economic situations, people need to bond, and need to know that there are people out there in similar straits,” Nolen said. “In numbers there are solutions, and it’s very logical for people to come together and say, ‘we’re going to get through this.'”

Contact John Stroud: 384-9160

jstroud@postindependent.com


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