Looking for a way to lend a helping hand and your expertise to area nonprofits? A recently revamped website is making it easier to match your talents and interests with local organizations that need them.
Volunteer Center of Pinal County, 195 E. Superstition Blvd. in Apache Junction, is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that has compiled a list of 27 food banks, animal shelters, libraries, boys and girls clubs, museums, senior centers and other groups that are looking for volunteer help, according to its website.
Linda McAteer recalls looking for more volunteers earlier this year to help at the Apache Junction Food Bank, 575 N. Idaho Road Suite 701 in Apache Junction. That’s when a friend suggested she visit the volunteer center website, she said during a phone interview. Ms. McAteer volunteers at the food bank and serves as vice president of its board of directors.
While touring the site, she encountered some dead links — those linked to inactive sites. She noticed some information was out of date while others could be better organized, she said.
She also saw the volunteer center was looking for someone with computer skills to help update the site, and she contacted Sharon Stinard, who manages the volunteer center, to donate her services.
Ms. McAteer, a retired teacher, has always worked with computers, she said. She reviewed the center’s website and discussed its needs with Ms. Stinard, who is a charter member of its board of directors. Ms. McAteer then selected a click-and-drag web-hosting service that Ms. Stinard or an associate would be able to update and maintain, she said. The site allows the volunteer center to track the number of online visits, a feature the previous site did not have, she said.
The site also links users directly to an organization’s website, if one exists, so people can research its goals and needs. They can then contact the organization directly if they’re interested in volunteering there.
The online service went live to the public April 12, Ms. Stinard said. It replaces the volunteer center’s previous and more labor-intensive screening process. It included having a potential volunteer fill out a lengthy form and then being interviewed by a volunteer center worker — also a volunteer — before being matched with a potential organization or agency if the person had not specified one, Ms. Stinard said during an interview.
The process could take one-and-a-half to two hours to complete, Ms. Stinard said. It could also include a background check and fingerprinting, which is now performed, if needed, by the agency that is considering the potential volunteer, she said.
At its busiest, during the early 2000s, the volunteer center had about five volunteers; it was open Monday-Friday year-round, Ms. Stinard said. Now that people can access the agencies online, Ms. Stinard and the volunteer center board of directors perform office duties when necessary and oversee the website, she said. There are no regular office hours, she said.
“We’re an all-volunteer board helping a volunteer center to find volunteers,” Ms. Stinard said.
People do not have to live in Pinal County to volunteer here, so accessing the information online simplifies the search efforts, Ms. Stinard said.
To help potential volunteers for whom travel time is a consideration, Ms. McAteer updated the site to include an organization’s location or the area it serves in Pinal County if it is not obvious by its name. People visiting the site know immediately that Against Abuse, Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center and Harmony Hospice are based in Casa Grande.
Most of the agencies are based in or near the far east Valley. They include independent agencies as well as local branches of national organizations.
In addition to the aforementioned agencies, the list includes: American Cancer Society; Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce; Apache Junction Animal Control; Apache Junction Development Services; Apache Junction Food Bank; Apache Junction Horse Rescue; Apache Junction Salvation Army; Arizona Foundation For Social Justice Children And Youth Services, Maricopa; Arizona Supreme Court, Foster Care Review Board, throughout Pinal County; Casa Grande Valley Historical Society; Community Action Human Resources Agency, throughout Pinal County; Community Alliance Against Family Abuse, throughout Pinal County; Empowerment Systems, office in Apache Junction; Hope Volunteers Inc., throughout Pinal and Gila counties; Mountain Health and Wellness, Apache Junction; Pinal County Juvenile Court Services; Pinal Gila Community Child Services Inc.; Regional Fire and Rescue Department Inc.; San Tan Valley Chamber of Commerce; Seeds of Hope, Casa Grande; Superstition Area Cultural Alliance, northern Pinal County; Superstition Mountain Museum, Apache Junction; United Way of Pinal County and Volunteer Center of Pinal County, Apache Junction.
Volunteer opportunities also include short-term assignments, such as a few days, Ms. Stinard said. She has helped place people to work at the annual Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo, held the last weekend of February in Apache Junction, and at clean-up efforts, she said.
A volunteer connection does not always occur on the first try, Lori Ownsby said during a phone interview.
She volunteered at one Apache Junction-based organization for about a year but did not enjoy the office atmosphere. When a friend mentioned he was going to help move the Superstition Mountain Museum from Goldfield Ghost Town to its new site at 4087 N. Apache Trail in Apache Junction, she decided to tag along. That was in 2002 and she has volunteered at the museum ever since, she said.
Now 88 years old, the Apache Junction woman volunteers for four-hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays. She also oversees the museum’s Thursday lecture series during the winter months, which requires another four-hour shift on lecture days, she said.
She likes what she does, she said.
“It is very enjoyable,” Ms. Ownsby said. “I like the people I work with and the customers I meet. I like the camaraderie. It’s been a good fit.”
Winter visitors comprise much of the area’s volunteer pool, Ms. Stinard said. With them gone during the summer, many of the organizations are seeking volunteers to help during the warmer months and beyond, she said.
The Apache Junction Food Bank needs help unloading truck deliveries, Ms. McAteer said.
The museum needs volunteers to help in its general store and museum shop and to serve as greeters, Ms. Ownsby said.
For more information, visit the Volunteer Center of Pinal County website or call 480-982-9353.
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