Making use of volunteers

Anitra Freeman (
Thu, 2 Apr 1998 23:57:06 -0800 (PST)

I don't know how many of you have gotten to the point where this is an
issue; how do you make use of volunteers?

Actually, the trigger for my bringing up the subject is that twice in
twenty-four hours I was asked the same question: "I want to donate some
time and money to helping the homeless; where would my help be the most
effective?"  One was a young man asking by email; the other was an entire
conference room of people at a downtown business that had me in to give a
speech over lunch.

In both cases I responded that 1) you will be most effective doing
something that excites and enthuses *you*; 2) some needed assistance
requires additional training -- don't expect to walk in off the street and
be greeted with open arms, you will have to make major commitments and
prove yourself before you are able to actually work with children, abused
women, several other populations in need; then 3) I listed some needs and
what individuals can do about them.

I talked about the need for shelter, of all kinds, and some of the ways
that community members can work with homeless organizations to open up new
shelter in abandoned or under-utilized buildings.  I talked about the need
for community,and the importance of relating with live homeless people,
one-on-one -- not just tossing a check to United Way.  And I talked about
the effectiveness of self-managed, grassroots projects over
bureaucratically-applied "solutions", and urged the folks I talked to to
send any of their donations to programs that the homeless themselves are
involved in running.

Has anyone else fielded such questions?  What response did you give?  What
kind of results came of it?

Write On!
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