By Jade A. Marceau–Mary
Numerous places and organizations have been looking for more volunteers in the past few years. From the Mascoutah and Oakawville’s Senior Centers to the Brick Street Merchant Group: volunteers are missing the party! Organizations and local shops have had a hard time finding volunteers to keep their events and institutions going. “[Volunteering] helps give back to your community, it helps keep these events going, you know if you don’t have people to work the event, then you can’t have the event,” AJ, president of the Brick Street Merchant Group said. Between the fear of covid, a change in society and people’s lack of free time, many suppositions turn around trying to explain the community penury in volunteering.
Places like the Lebanon Visitor Center and the Senior Centers said they always seek out more volunteers. Anyone interested in helping their community could volunteer two hours to keep the Lebanon Visitor Center open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and to reopen the Mermaid House in Lebanon. During that time, volunteers give visitors tours to share the History of Lebanon.
The Oakawville and Mascoutah Senior Centers are also actively looking for volunteer cooks and drivers. “A lot of people come and go, and so we are trying to find some solid volunteers,” Patrice Finch from the Mascoutah Senior Center explained. The Okwaville and Mascoutah Senior Centers are both currently and intensively looking for volunteer drivers to deliver meals to senior citizens through Meals on Wheels. “[Volunteers] are very important for us,” Darla Rennegarbe, from the Okawville Senior Center said, “they help us keep all the programs and services running and available to seniors in our area.” Meals on Wheels is also a nonprofit organization that operates on grants and donations, so the senior centers opened up about their difficulties in founding such an organization and the necessity of volunteering as the cost of raw food and gas fuel increases. “We don’t want to turn into that one when we just give frozen meals once a week. We like that we can cook meals every day for them. They are nutritional, they are good and we love that somebody every day gets to see these people,” Finch said, “[Volunteers] are the Heart and Soul of the senior center.” For now, and thanks to the volunteers, each meal is homemade at the Senior Center and delivered every day to people in need. Sometimes volunteer drivers are the only visitors that people who receive Meals on Wheels have all day. Not to mention, each and every person can also come in and share with others what they enjoy and know. “If you have an ability, you know arts, or dancing, or anything else that you want to bring to the community, we would love to try,” Finch said.
Furthermore, the Brick Street Merchant Group, a Subdivision of the Chamber of Commerce in charge of events such as the May Market and the Witches Night Out, also revealed having difficulties keeping their events standing due to the lack of volunteers. “Lebanon is in strong need of volunteers’ help for street events, helping with setting up, regulating traffic flow, picking up the trash, packing up, etc.,” Jeff Harris, a member of the Brick Street Merchant Group, said. Along with the Horner Park Boosters, which also faced a lack of volunteers during their 2nd annual Fishing Derby last Friday, challenging the lasting of their event. Volunteers were essential to help with check-in, registrations, selling concessions and measuring fish, but also “prevent burnout and sustain the future of Horner Park Boosters.” Lesley Burkett-Gerard, the organizer of the event, said.
Volunteering is about giving back to your community to help it be sustainable, but volunteering is also about helping yourself. Volunteering can help you “connect with your community and get closer to what’s happening in your town, especially when you are new,” Harris said. For high schoolers, volunteer work can also be a significant plus when looking for colleges. University admission decisions rely on factors such as “proven leadership skills, community involvement, work experience, and the capacity to contribute to the campus community,” Josie Blasdel, Director of Undergraduate Admission at McKendree University, said. Having volunteer experience can help in being admitted to a college where one would not meet the minimum GPA requirement or help students get scholarships. Community services are also essential to receive the Meridian scholarship, also known as the full-ride scholarship, at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. “I recommend probably 100+ hours of volunteering on those,” said Rachel Cunningham, Admission Coordinator at the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, “[Volunteering] is important even when they get on campus [since] there are some scholarships that require volunteer services to keep the scholarships.”
Last but not least, potential volunteers shall remember that volunteering, contrary to a paid position, is doing “what you can and when you can,” Finch said, “we never want you to feel obligated like they have to be here. We want to be thoughts. If something comes up, we are very understanding and flexible. We try to show them our support as much as we can. We know things happen. If you can’t make it, that’s fine: family first. Family always comes first.”
Volunteer with the Lebanon Visitor Center: call (618) 537-8420
Volunteer with the Oakawville Senior Center: Darla Rennegarbe at firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer with the Mascoutah Senior Center: Patrice Finch at (618) 566-8758
Need Volunteer for RSVP Band coming on June 1st. Need help to serve,
set up, take down, and clean.
Volunteer with the Brick Street Merchant Group (May Festival,Witches Night Out, etc.): Lebanonwno2@gmail.com
Volunteer with the Horner Park Boosters: Horner Park Boosters on Facebook!