Nonprofits in need
Published 11:03 pm Thursday, October 7, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Area nonprofit organizations lined the halls at the Lake Michigan College Bertrand Crossings campus Thursday in an effort to educate and recruit volunteers in search of service.
The Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan hosted the fair, a traveling event taking place at the Bertrand Crossings, South Haven and Napier Avenue campuses of LMC.
“We had 200 people in Benton Harbor yesterday,” said Doris Higgins, director of the Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan, on Thursday. “I would say today I would expect about 100 people to go through.”
Organizations like the Southwest Michigan Mentoring Collaborative, Child and Family Services of Southwest Michigan, Hospice for Home and the Salvation Army set up booths and came armed with information for prospective volunteers.
“They say the recession is over,” Higgins said. “Not in Michigan. The experienced not-for-profit will tell you as things are picking back up, we stay down there longer.”
Nonprofits have a double-edged sword to contend with. As economic conditions worsen, the need for certain services increase but those organizations can’t afford to hire help — leaving their support in the hands of volunteers.
“When it comes to the financial health of the agencies — they’re really still having a hard time. They also have so many people they have to serve. That’s why we’re trying to reach out.”
The Salvation Army is anticipating a busy holiday season as it prepares for the first phase of its Christmas Assistance Program.
Dates have been set for the verification process of the program, where those in need of assistance can make an appointment to have their information evaluated to find out if they qualify for the program.
“We will start sign up Oct. 18,” said Jan Nowak-Lumm, director of caring ministries/social services for the Salvation Army. “We anticipate it to be brisk like it was last year.”
Over the Christmas holiday, the Salvation Army helped more than 400 area families.
“One of the startling things I’m seeing right now … I’ve seen so many people that have never been here,” she said, “which frightens me because we’re seeing a new need, a new depth of people in need.”
Also new in the area of service, Higgins said, is the volunteer itself.
“I think there’s definitely a shift in what it means to be a not-for-profit,” Higgins said. “It’s a new reality. The volunteer today is much more diverse and much more interested in not only what they’re able to give but what the end result means for them.”
That, she said, is not necessarily a bad thing. Volunteers — some of which are unemployed workers — are looking at service as a means to help those in need, put their skills to good use and add to their experience for their resumes.
“We all need to be more creative,” Higgins said. “Not-for-profits are businesses too. We’re going to have the same contraction the same expansion” issues.
More than 20 agencies took part in the volunteer fair at the Bertrand Crossings Campus Thursday. Those agencies along with others in need of volunteer service have information available on the Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan’s website, www.volunteerswmi.org.