For Nevada County nonprofits, daily operations have seen significant changes during the pandemic, from reductions in staffing to transitions into a virtual space — but one thing that hasn’t changed is the support they have received from volunteers in their community.
The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County has continued its efforts to prevent wildfires by organizing a free residential green waste disposal event, set to occur from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday until June 27.
The event is planned to occur simultaneously at sites in Grass Valley, Penn Valley, and Alta Sierra. More information on the event can be found at www.areyoufiresafe.com/programs/green-waste.
Julie Siegenthaler, secretary of the Fire Safe Council, said it has received a sizable response to the call for volunteers for the event. She was happy to report that all shifts have been filled for the days this week. However, it’s still seeking volunteers for all dates in upcoming weeks.
With regards to COVID-19-related concerns from those interested in volunteering, Siegenthaler said the Fire Safe Council has designed the training and set-up for the event to include distancing measures, “no-contact” collection, and face coverings.
RESCUED DOGS PAIRED WITH VOLUNTEER PALS
At Grass Valley animal rescue and aid organization Scooter’s Pals, more people are volunteering to help than ever before.
According to Susan Wallace, the founder of Scooter’s Pals and a volunteer herself, members of the community have increasingly volunteered foster care for dogs, which she observed may be related to people spending more time in their homes.
Wallace shared that her inspiration to do this work came out of respect for her mother’s longtime animal rescue work, a motivation which hasn’t waned even during this difficult time.
She explained that finding foster families and permanent homes for the dogs remains an urgent task, saying, “We like to take in dogs which we feel wouldn’t survive if we didn’t take them in.”
Wallace and her fellow Scooter’s Pals volunteers have had to change some protocol, from physically distanced and mask-protected home visits during adoption evaluations to limiting their dogs’ veterinary and dental visits to urgent appointments.
However, they are continuing their efforts to rescue dogs, relying on online social platforms to get the word out to potential foster families and volunteers of other kinds.
“With social networking and videos, we have such things available to us that we never had before, which is an enormous blessing for these dogs,” said Wallace. “People come out of the woodwork to help when we share the data right, which is so heartwarming.”
VOLUNTEERING FROM A DISTANCE
NEO, a youth center offering social and mentorship activities to those aged 11 to 25, normally operates with the help of a large team of both youth and adult volunteers.
However, according to co-founder and director of operations Lynn Skrukrud, the current closure of NEO’s physical space has changed the way that members of the community are able to offer their support.
As all of its activities have moved online, the organization has still received help in the form of contributions to care packages for the youth and remote support in checking in on NEO members through phone calls.
“We are still always looking for volunteers,” said Skrukrud.
For Hospitality House, the COVID-19 stay-at-home order has also put distance between the people it serves and the volunteers who support it.
In order to protect everyone involved, Hospitality House has suspended all volunteer activity involving foot traffic into the shelter. This has presented a challenge, because much of the food preparation in the shelter was normally facilitated by volunteers.
In response, Chef Chris Fagen, who normally teaches a culinary job training program at the shelter, stepped up alongside several homeless guests into the full-time role of preparing daily meals for nearly 100 people.
“Our volunteers do so much for us, and we’re definitely feeling that absence right now,” said Hospitality House development director Ashley Quadros.
However, Quadros emphasized that many have continued to find ways to help out, either financially or through the donation of much-needed items. In fact, a couple of community members have offered to match donations made to the shelter during this month, up to $25,000.
Hospitality House updates its website each week with a list of their most-needed items. The list can be viewed at www.hhshelter.org/giving/donate-food-clothes-or-other-items.
“Even though we’re losing our volunteers in person, they’re still helping us very much from afar,” said Quadros. “We feel really fortunate that we have an amazing community which continues to help those in need.”
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Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union