Hundreds turn out to learn about volunteerismPublished 10:35am Monday, November 23, 2009
By KATIE JOHNSON
Niles Daily Star
At least 300 adults and children were expected to visit the Niles-Buchanan YMCA Saturday to learn how they can make a difference.
Halfway through the event, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the gym, about 150 people had passed through the doors.
“What we’re really trying to do is encourage everyone to volunteer,” said Doris Higgins, executive director of The Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan, which hosted the second annual Family Volunteer Day. Nearly 20 non-profits and volunteer opportunities were available at tables, with many offering hands-on projects, like making cards for soldiers overseas and “Pennies for Patients” containers for Berrien County Cancer Services.
Agencies on hand included Berrien County Sheriff and Explorer Post 602, Great Start Parent Coalition, Earned Income Tax Coalition, Polly’s Place, the Ronald McDonald House and many others.
“People today are really staying – they aren’t just staying for one thing and then leaving,” Higgins said Saturday. “They are staying for an hour.”
“Even the littlest kids can make cards,” Higgins said, referring to the Meals on Wheels table where children crafted cards for program participants.
“A lot of them are really isolated, so it just really brightens their day,” added Debra Panozzo, adult and family volunteer coordinator for The Volunteer Center.
Blue Star Mothers of America Inc. Chapter 177 hosted a popular table where children and adults made cards for soldiers.
“Usually, we give them to the deployed, just to bring a little of home to them,” Blue Star member Tammy Sebasty said. Fifty cards had been made by noon that day.
Last year, Family Volunteer Day was held in Benton Harbor; it will be a traveling event. They also have plans for a similar event in Dowagiac in January.
The Volunteer Center partners with more than 300 agencies in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties. For more information about volunteering, visit www.volunteerswmi.org or call The Volunteer Center at 683-5464.