The fourth annual Volunteer Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Puyallup Activity Center.
Deborah Gurney, supervisor for MultiCare Celebrate Seniority, who will help facilitate the event, said 21 organizations are registered to recruit volunteers.
The Herald sat down with Gurney and Charles Emlet, professor of social work at the University of Washington-Tacoma, to ask about the importance of volunteering and how the fair got its start.
Puyallup Herald: How did the volunteering effort begin?
Charles Emlet: About 2000, Puyallup was part of a multi-city initiative called the AdvantAge Initiative, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. An advisory committee consisted of a lot of movers and shakers in the area, and the purpose of that was to look at how elder-friendly Puyallup was.
A few years later, we held a community forum at the activity center about the importance of staying connected, and we realized people were very interested in volunteering but became frustrated when they called agencies to offer their services and were met with roadblocks.
PH: What else did you learn from the community forum?
CE: We learned that, not only did people say they wanted to volunteer, but they wanted their activity to be meaningful. In other words, “Don’t put me in a back room.” Folks did want to give back to the community in a way that was meaningful, and that was important for the agencies to hear.
PH: Just what is a Volunteer Fair?
CE: I think of it as speed dating for volunteerism. The idea was to bring together agencies that wanted volunteers together with people interested in volunteering. Volunteers come together and talk to agencies, and those relationships begin.
PH: What can people expect at the Volunteer Fair?
Deborah Gurney: The 21 organizations that have registered are there to recruit volunteers, and there is a huge diversity of participation. We have everything from city departments, parks, a group training companion dogs, to schools recruiting tutors.
PH: Why is volunteering important to MultiCare?
DG: Fifty to 60 percent of our volunteers are students who are fulfilling requirements to enter nursing schools, or just have a real heart to help those who are, at this point, needing medical care, and senior volunteers, they are just the best. The quality that the senior volunteers bring is a lifetime of experience.
The MultiCare volunteers at Good Samaritan, Tacoma General, Mary Bridge, Auburn Medical Clinic and Allenmore Hospital, all our clinics and hospice workers and others help by insuring quality patient care. They do those little touches that nurses are honestly just too busy to do. They make personal contacts with family members waiting for a loved one and with patients themselves. We just couldn’t afford to do that work without the volunteers.
PH: How does volunteering benefit the volunteer?
DG: A study done in the UK that looked at the benefits of volunteering and showed that it actually benefited volunteers’ health and longevity. I have a huge respect and admiration for people who are willing to give their time and talents to benefit their community and others. It is selfless. I have always had a huge heart for working with volunteers.Joan Cronk is a freelance reporter for the Herald.