By Marilyn Pribus –
Volunteers are always at the heart of any community from folks giving time to their church or children’s activities to those helping persons escape domestic violence to the musicians who mounted the Concert for Charlottesville last month.
In fact, the catalog of local volunteer efforts is nearly endless from working with Little League, Boys and Girls Clubs, soup kitchens and food banks, serving the homeless, and spending time (or writing checks) for fund-raising events like the Alzheimer’s Walk, the annual Charlottesville Women’s Four-Miler, and golf tournaments.
In the aftermath of the August protests in Charlottesville, members of the Dave Matthews Band weren’t the only musicians making statements for peace, often through healing music. For example, the Charlottesville Women’s Choir appeared at the annual Gay Pride Festival singing, “We are a gentle angry people, we are a land of many colors, we are gay and straight together and we are singing for our lives.”
Other groups, such as the Love Army Ukulele Brigade, recently led singing at the Peace Prayer Celebration at the Haven. Another was the Charlottesville Threshold Choir which sang, “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” and “May peace be with you now and always.”
People of all ages give many hours to worthy organizations. Take Ronna Gray, for instance. A retired occupational therapist, she’s a volunteer tutor for Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle (LVCA). LVCA estimates there are more than 9,000 citizens and at least 5,000 foreign nationals with low literacy skills in our immediate area. Tutors work with them, mostly on a one-to-one basis.
“I’ve been connected with Literacy Volunteers since 2012,” explains Gray. “I have my own individual students, I do short term subbing for other tutors, and help with occasional trainings of new volunteers. I’m also co-tutoring a group of refugees from mostly Burma/Myanmar. I have laughed and cried and met wonderful, interesting people from all over the world and heard sometimes heart-breaking stories.”
Charlottesville REALTORS® Help
Bob Hughes of Nest Realty in Charlottesville is one of many real estate folks who serve in the region. He’s been honored by the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR) for “his dedication and fundraising efforts for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.” Joining with others, he has helped raise money to feed hungry families.
Not surprisingly, many volunteer efforts by REALTORS® have a real-estate slant. “Charlottesville REALTORS® do anything we can to help with affordable housing” declares CAAR President Anthony McGhee of Assist2Sell First Rate Realty. “Our overarching wish is that everyone have a home. It’s just part of our belief system.”
Kay Sands of Roy Wheeler Realty Co. echoes McGhee’s words. “Many people think REALTORS® are all about buying and selling homes,” she notes, “but we are really about home ownership and helping people stay in their homes.”
Sands has been recognized by CAAR for her involvement with the Seniors Safe at Home program which benefits older people who cannot afford critical home repairs. The program has joined forces with the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association and the Albemarle Home Improvement Program (AHIP) to help low-income senior citizens stay safe in their dwellings.
“As REALTORS® we see parts of our community that other people do not see,” Sands says. “Poor housing is a secret that needs to be told. It is truly about the lady at the cleaners, at the florist, the delivery people from restaurants. We know these people, but we do not know their struggles.”
AHIP has its own crews as well as local subcontractors and volunteers who make repairs through the Emergency Home Repair Program. Unfortunately there is often a lengthy waiting list for people needing critical repairs—sometimes as many as a couple hundred households. The average cost of an emergency repair runs close to $2,000 and projects can involve roofs, wells, septic systems, plumbing, electrical, heating, windows, handicap access retrofits and other needs.
What Can I Do?
When you read about a local organization such as the Threshold Choir, AHIP or LVCA, 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 volunteermatch.org showed listings for more than 100 specific volunteer placements in our region. Causes range from animals to veterans including raising a guide dog, being a computer mentor for children, serving in hospitals, working with scouting or the Red Cross, volunteering at Monticello, and more.
In addition, the website lists more than 6,000 virtual opportunities—that is, ways to serve remotely or on line. This can be ideal for folks with difficult schedules or travel limitations.
Volunteer requests include positions for graphic designers, website maintenance or translation, grant-writing, online counseling for teens who have suffered violence, and many other opportunities.
Personal Returns On Volunteering
“I believe in giving back to the community,” Hughes says. “It helps foster team spirit and helps people out at the same time.”
Perhaps Gray, the LVCA volunteer, says it best. “I love it all. When I am a part of helping people gain citizenship or just gain confidence to have a conversation with a neighbor, it is a wonderful feeling.”
Marilyn Pribus lives in Albemarle County. She has a long volunteer resume from being a Cub Scout Den Mother to working for blood banks in several different states and being a Friend of the Library wherever she lives.