Archive for Sunday, April 23, 2006

Lawrence volunteer center earns national recognition

April 23, 2006

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The Roger Hill Volunteer Center is getting national recognition.

The center, which serves as a hub for volunteer opportunities in Douglas County, is saluted in the current issue of USA Weekend Magazine - available in today's paper - for making a difference in the community.

"I'm proud," said Margaret Perkins-McGuinness, the Center's manager. "I'm proud on behalf of all of the volunteers who contribute."

The recognition comes as local volunteers begin National Volunteer Week, which starts today and runs through Saturday.

Perkins-McGuinness said she hoped news of the recognition would inspire others to begin volunteering.

"When people see that others have found a way to make time for volunteering, it inspires them to do the same," she said.

The Roger Hill Volunteer Center connects volunteers with work in the community. The Center referred more than 1,200 people last year.

"A lot of the time, people have an idea of where they want to be in the community," Perkins-McGuinness said. "With our knowledge of what's going on in the community, we can make that happen."

While volunteerism is strong in Douglas County, she said, there is always a need for more people willing to lend their time. She said she didn't have figures about local volunteer efforts.

Nearly 30 percent of Americans volunteered in 2004-05, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, women volunteered more than men, with the highest percentage, 34.5 percent, of volunteers ranging from age 35 to 44.

Many people these days try to fit in volunteering in an already busy schedule and tend to seek more sporadic work, Perkins-McGuinness said. It often takes a bit more time to find the right fit for such volunteers, she said, but the opportunities are out there.

"You're going to find an organization that will benefit from your very sporadic involvement, as well as organizations that will benefit from a very long-term effort," she said.

Anne Poggio, a longtime volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate, said she knew she'd made a difference in people's lives.

Over the course of a decade, Poggio has acted as a sort of surrogate parent to abused or neglected children.

Her current case is a high school student. She'll stop at school to eat lunch with him. She'll pick him up after school. They go shopping, fishing and to the public swimming pool.

"I will never abandon this child," she said. "I know I will always have a connection with him."

Poggio said she started volunteering after hearing a talk about the program years ago. She heard about the children placed in difficult situations through no fault of their own. Family is important to her, and it pained her to think of the children in need, she said.

"I thought if I could make a difference in the life of one child ... that was a good use of my time," Poggio said. "I've never regretted one minute of it."

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