National Volunteer Week began in 1974, when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Global Volunteer Month was established this year by the Points of Light Foundation to expand that celebration.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2014 and September 2015. The Corporation for National and Community Service (www.nationalservice.org) said it’s collectively dedicated 8.1 billion hours to a wide variety of organizations; the donated time and expertise is valued at $173 billion.
Because we didn’t want to miss any of the fun, we asked local nonprofits to brag on their volunteers. Here are the responses we received. Thank you for all you do to make our community a better place!
If you’re interested in finding ways to plug in, check out the list of nonprofits on Page 80.
Next Step Ministries
On any given day at Next Step Ministries in Woodstock, you will see many faces, each with their own story. As a provider of day programs for adults with special needs, many may find the prospect of volunteering at a place like this to be daunting. “How can I make a difference?” “What if I don’t know what to say or how to act?” These are common questions many ask.
These challenges didn’t stop longtime Next Step volunteer Judy Lester from giving her time. Judy has been a volunteer with Next Step Ministries for four years. During that time, she has made a heavy impact on the staff, the clients and their parents. When Judy walks in each week, she brings a contagious smile that affects all the clients and staff. Along with helping grow a culture of joy in the day program, Judy’s skills as a master gardener have helped grow the garden at the main building. She says working with the clients keeps her grounded and she strives to return the blessing. It seems that wherever Judy goes, the culture blooms.
Regardless of your experience or skills, you, too, can make a difference at Next Step Ministries. Whether by assisting our clients with projects, attending community outings or helping with outdoor landscaping, there are endless ways to donate your time or talent in a fulfilling way. Go to www.nextstepministries.net/volunteer or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved, because the world needs more people like Judy.
– Matt McCoy
Elm Street Cultural Arts Village
“Costume design is my passion! I love to design and put things together,” said Cindy Flanders, describing her work as a volunteer, designing costumes for Elm Street Theater in downtown Woodstock.
“For me, the most fun productions are period pieces with historical costumes,” Cindy said. “The first time we did ‘Christmas Carol,’ for example, I had to research Victorian clothing. Probably the most memorable production was ‘Decision Heights.’ It’s a drama about women service pilots in World War II, so all the costumes had to be quite accurate for the period.”
Cindy leads a team of a half-dozen volunteers, and estimates she spends an average of 25 hours a week in the costume shop. “I’m no seamstress,” she said. “But I love the design part. The process starts with a production meeting. We hear the director’s vision for whatever the musical or play is – sometimes they might say, ‘I want to see a lot of color on stage,’ or, ‘I want a very muted look.’ That sets the direction. Then I can start the research. Sometimes I do sketches, but not always. I look for photos, I print out hairstyle designs. I tape them up all around so we can see them while we work.”
Cindy’s costumes have been nominated for three Metro Atlanta Theater awards during the past few years, winning Best Costumes in 2018 for her work in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
“You would be hard pressed to find a harder-working volunteer than Cindy Flanders,” Elm Street Executive Director Christopher Brazelton said. “She is incredibly committed, not just for herself, but for those around her as well – she’s been with the theater since 2010. The staff was unanimous saying she should be recognized for all her work here.”
– Ann Litrel
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, like clockwork, Melaney Towerton quietly slips in, eager to help. It became Cherokee FOCUS’s good fortune when Melaney began volunteering as a math tutor more than a year ago. Her family had moved from Nebraska six months earlier, so it felt like the right time to increase her involvement in the community beyond her church and daughters’ activities.
Melaney was a perfect fit, with her background as a high school math and science paraprofessional and having a masters’ degree in science in geoscience. Besides her obvious aptitude for the subject matter, Melaney’s ability to connect with the students has been most important. She has a genuine interest in the students, taking time to learn about their lives outside of the classroom. Melaney has steadfastly encouraged and supported the students’ efforts to overcome the challenges of school work that have thwarted them in the past. There’s no doubt she is committed to helping these young adults. She’s always ready to share her knowledge, upbeat attitude, and concern for them.
Cherokee FOCUS offers GED preparation classes as part of its workforce development mission. The GED students present a wide-range of needs and abilities, which makes individualized instruction so necessary and beneficial. Community volunteers are a valuable resource in helping to make this personalized approach possible.
When asked about her volunteerism, Melaney said: “My part is rather small in the big picture of what Cherokee FOCUS accomplishes, but it shows that even a small act can have a large impact on others.” How very right she is! And how lucky for Cherokee FOCUS!
– Kathi Korcyk-Schaefer
Betty Hudson, Martha Jo Ashburn
Cherokee Family Violence Center
For nearly three decades, Cherokee Family Violence Center has relied on Betty Hudson and Martha Jo Ashburn to be resources and to support our clients. The sister duo has been friendly voices and empathetic ears for overnight callers to our 24-hour domestic violence hotline since the early 1990s.
Hudson and Ashburn began their overnight hotline shifts back in a time when the emergency shelter did not have a 24-hour staff. Together, they have volunteered close to 45,000 hours! To put that in perspective: that is more than five years’ time!
“We love Ms. Betty and Ms. Martha,” Shelter Director Raysa Figaro said. “We know that overnight hotline shifts are covered for us, Monday – Thursday, and that we can count on them to be available for anyone calling in during the middle of the night needing resources from our domestic violence hotline.”
Cherokee Family Violence Center is a registered, nonprofit agency in Canton, that has provided services to victims of domestic violence and their children since the mid-1980s. We provide around the clock emergency assistance, offering safety and support, and engaging in educating the public through outreach and legal advocacy.
You, too, can be a Cherokee Family Violence Center volunteer! Daytime hotline volunteer shifts have opened, and we are looking for folks to fill those spots. To find out more about volunteering for Cherokee Family Violence Center, email Stephanie@CFVC.org or call 770-479-1840 extension 101.
– Stephanie Villasenor
Matthew Crosby, Desi Frazier
G. Cecil Pruett Community Center Family YMCA
Teen Leader of the Year: Matthew Crosby’s first involvement with the YMCA was through summer camp 10 years ago. Matthew has served as assistant counselor, lifeguard and is involved with the Advanced Leadership Academy. The Cherokee High School student plans to earn a pre-med degree from Kennesaw State University and then attend medical school to earn a degree in radiology or dermatology.
“Matthew displays initiative, shows leadership, is punctual and willing to learn new skills. He is always willing to help others in any way he can,” YMCA staff member Ryder Leary said. “Matthew consistently shows leadership ability by his willingness to lead. He plays an active role in team building and assists fellow teen leaders in programs and activities.”
Matthew understands that volunteer service as a student sets the tone for a lifetime of giving back.
Volunteer of the Year: Desi Frazier has volunteered with the G. Cecil Pruett Community Center Family YMCA for 15 years. Her first connection with the YMCA was playing racquetball and basketball at the age of 11 and spending two summers at an overnight camp in Wisconsin. Most recently, Desi has assisted with coaching basketball and T-ball teams.
“Desi has given countless hours to the YMCA’s of Cherokee County. Her compassion and relentlessness to get a job done stands out,” Leary said. “She has set a wonderful example of what it means to be a volunteer at the Y. Desi leads by example and motivates not only our other volunteers but our staff as well.”
Desi’s motivation is to pay forward the kindness she was shown as a child.
Charlene Lamanac has been a faithful volunteer at MUST Ministries since 2018. With more than 3,000 hours, Charlene assists and supports staff and volunteers, five days a week. On any given day, she can be found helping with various tasks all around the building, from helping clean, assisting in the food pantry to helping sort donations. Charlene is a volunteer who is willing to help wherever and whenever needed and is so appreciated at MUST. The staff describes her as positive, upbeat, helpful, consistent, and a team player. We are so thankful for all our volunteers at MUST, as we could not provide the services that we do without the help of others. MUST Ministries would like to extend our gratitude and thanks to Charlene and to all the volunteers, as we are so grateful for each person.
– Emily Garner
Forever Fed is a mobile ministry that provides groceries, clothing and other services directly to communities experiencing high need since 2010. While we have seen thousands of volunteers serve selflessly during the years, the service of one quiet, unassuming volunteer stands above the rest.
Beverly Morgan served with Forever Fed for nine years. Sadly, after a brief critical illness, Beverly’s earthly job was completed in September 2019, when she quietly entered her eternal home in Heaven.
Beverly was always the quietest person in the room. Whether she was performing endless hours of administrative tasks, sorting through donated foods, loading the truck or mopping the floor she never complained. Bev was that volunteer who always stepped up and got the job done.
Bev was also a wonderful team player: so much so, she often brought her own team of grandchildren and their friends and family to work with her. When we were short of helping hands, she always brought extras. Bev was one of those people you could always count on when the chips were down.
Bev also was a very active volunteer with the Red Cross Disaster Relief team. Sometimes she shared stories of her service and experiences while helping with disaster relief. It was during the celebration of Beverly’s life that I learned she was the region lead (for the entire state of Georgia) on financial and statistical information for that organization as well! Her humility and dedicated participation in the causes she believed in was simply amazing.
Her legacy of service to community lives on. The thousands of hours she served with Forever Fed are part of the firm foundation our ministry is built upon to this day. While we miss her dearly, her genuine smile and heartfelt laughter continue to fuel our hearts toward service to our fellow man. It is an honor to commemorate and celebrate the service of a woman who shared her large heart in such a quiet and humble manner. Her quiet participation in the community affected the lives of thousands of people who may never know of her contribution.
– Susan Vanderheyden