Volunteers: The Heart of Our Community

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Volunteers: The Heart of Our Community

By Marilyn Pribus –

Volunteers are at the heart of any community from folks giving time to their church or children’s activities to those helping victims of domestic violence or injured wild creatures.

In fact, the catalog of local volunteer efforts is nearly endless from Little League, Boys and Girls Clubs, thrift stores and food banks, to serving the homeless, and spending time (or writing checks) for fund-raising events like the Alzheimer’s Walk or the annual Charlottesville Women’s Four-Miler. 

People of all ages give countless hours to various worthy organizations. Many volunteer at their religious homes. Take retired accountant Linda Marques who serves shifts at Holy Comforter’s soup kitchen, which has provided lunches to those in need for more than 25 years.

“It’s a place for the people we serve to gather,” Marques says, “to get some food, cool off in summer, and speak to our social director for job opportunities.” She adds that some of the people they serve actually volunteer to help from time to time. A personal bonus: “I met my best friend at the soup kitchen.”

Other people are drawn to volunteering by their children. Darian Cochran of Charlottesville’s Avenue Realty has been honored with a Good Neighbor Award by the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR) for his work with the Northside Baseball League.

“I was honored to receive the award and the monetary donation that went to the league,” says Cochran. “This will directly impact the kids in our community and I couldn’t be more excited about that. Baseball is a sport where you fail more than you succeed.”

He says his team has taught him that determination really can take you far. “Every year I meet new families through coaching,” he adds, “and I am reminded how much kindness there is in our community.” 

Another CAAR Good Neighbor awardee is Georgia Lindsey of Nest Realty, recognized for her Meals on Wheels work over the past several years. She is a member of the board and active in their annual fundraiser which includes an ambitious silent auction. “This year it looks like we brought in over $70,000,” she declares.

“A good friend introduced me to our local Meals on Wheels,” she continues. “I was surprised to learn it’s an entirely independent organization, delivering hot meals five days a week, 52 weeks a year—including all holidays—without any public funding.” The group also makes up “Blizzard Bags” with several days’ worth of nonperishables to be available when bad weather prevents deliveries.

Lindsey says she loves her REALTOR® work because it means getting to help her clients find the perfect place to call home. “I also realized how much Meals on Wheels helps people who want to stay in the homes they cherish despite not being able to cook,” she says. “That was all it took to make me want to do whatever I could.”

Other efforts to get and keep people in cherished homes involve REALTORS® and community members volunteering time to help organizations such as AHIP. Some years ago the Charlottesville and Albemarle Housing Improvement Programs merged to become AHIP.

AHIP has its own staff and work crew of 25 and also depends on local subcontractors and volunteers to make repairs through the Emergency Home Repair Program. In 2017, AHIP staff and more than 200 volunteers made critical repairs for 89 seniors, 70 persons with disabilities and 63 children. Projects might involve roofs, wells, septic systems, plumbing, electrical, heating, windows, handicap access retrofits and other needs.

Habitat for Humanity is another group benefitting from a large volunteer contingent and many local real estate professionals lend a hand. “We do anything we can to help with affordable housing, even if it doesn’t mean a paycheck for us,” says Anthony McGhee of Assist2Sell First Rate Realty, Inc. “Our over-arching wish is that everyone have a home.”

He explains that adding to affordable housing and enabling ownership benefits our entire area, which is why volunteers work alongside prospective Habitat homeowners.  They don hard hats to help with home construction, paint walls, plant shrubs and more.

What Can I Do?
When you read about a local organization such as Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, or AHIP, check out its website for details about opportunities and possible training sessions for volunteers.

The internet is an excellent source for information. A recent visit to www.volunteermatch.org, showed listings for nearly 100 specific volunteer placements in our immediate region with organizations whose interests range from Children to Wildlife to Hunger and the Environment.

In addition, the website lists virtual opportunities for serving remotely. This can be ideal for folks with difficult schedules or travel limitations. Recent volunteer requests include graphic design, translation, grant-writing, online counseling for teens who have suffered violence, and many others.

“Volunteering is so important,” Lindsey concludes. “Giving back to your community grounds you in a way nothing else can. It reminds you that we are all in this together, working and living in this same special place.”


Marilyn Pribus lives in Albemarle County. She has a long volunteer resume from the Red Cross to Cub Scout Den Mother, to ushering at The Paramount and being and a Friend of the Library wherever she lives.

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