Sherry Morton, left, talks with clients Shirley Cornwell and Bob Bradley at Adult Day Care services in the Keystone Center. The agency is one of several that could use more volunteers. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
With graduation and the end of the spring semester, the bulk of the region’s sizable student volunteer force has gone home for summer, leaving an abundance of opportunities for others to step up and fill the gap for local nonprofit agencies that serve the community’s needy year-round.
On the other end of the generational spectrum of community volunteers, retirees who tend to serve with even greater diligence than their juniors are heading off on summer vacations that sometimes last for months, during which the agencies they assist scramble to cover the critical roles they fill.
High school students with mandatory service-learning hours to accomplish and moms, dads and grandparents to help them get it done could make a huge difference this summer. And there are many various ways and places they are invited to serve.
At Good Samaritan Ministries, the annual Summer Food Program for 600 low-income families who struggle to provide food for their children when public schools are in recess will kick off June 6 with the first of three large food distributions that will continue monthly through early August.
Each distribution requires about a week of food-box packing and several days to carry out and deliver the supplies from the Good Samaritan building at 100 N. Roan St. The bulk of the work will take place in the first week of June, July and August. Those who wish to help can schedule volunteer time slots by calling the ministry at 928-1958.
At the Salvation Army, fresh flowers that are past their sale date and donated by local florists for the agency’s Center of Hope shelter and kitchen and local hospitals, nursing homes and other places where people are in need of beauty and encouragement will continue to arrive by the dozens at the Center of Hope on Ashe Street every Tuesday and Friday throughout the summer.
Without the student volunteers who provide the lion’s share of the labor that goes into the Flowers of Hope program, there’s a lot of beautiful work to be done. Anyone who wishes to help may volunteer by calling the army at 926-2101.
At Second Harvest Food Bank in Gray, Lunch Express school buses will begin making food deliveries to rural communities in Northeast Tennessee that do not have local pantries as soon as the public school year ends. High school-age volunteers are always welcome helpers on the Lunch Express buses and may sign up to help by calling Second Harvest at 477-4053 and asking about the food bank’s Mobile School Pantry program.
Summer always brings added challenges to the First Tennessee Human Resource Agency’s Meals on Wheels program. Retired volunteers are among the program’s most dedicated, and when they leave for vacation they leave a lot of deliveries uncovered.
Delivering meals to homebound seniors whose day may include no other human contact than the words they exchange with a Meals on Wheels volunteer is frequently described by seasoned volunteers as one of the most rewarding jobs they’ve undertaken. Volunteer Kathi Baty, who has been delivering Meals on Wheels in Johnson City for many years, probably said it best when she called it a job that “makes my heart sing.”
Most routes take less than an hour to complete and can be scheduled as seldom as once a week. To sign up or for more information about a route, call 461-8221.
FTHRA’s Adult Day Services program for seniors and disabled adults is another place where volunteers are always welcome, especially during summer when the local volunteer pool runs low.
Located in the Keystone Community Center, it’s a place for people who need a safe, well-supervised and enriching place to spend their days while their caregivers work, attend school or tend to other essentials. Its volunteers often come to share a special skill or talent but more than anything else, Director Pam Gardner said, “what our folks need is someone to sit and socialize with them.”
“When they leave here, they may go home to someone who is so busy taking care of them they don’t have time to sit and talk to them about their day. We all need that one-on-one. Our little folks are starved for attention and that doesn’t require any special skill. Someone who is just moving from table to table talking to them is doing a great deal.”
More information about volunteering at Adult Day Services may be obtained by calling 928-8855.