Other voices: Hidden legions of volunteers | TheUnion.com

Other voices: Hidden legions of volunteers

Jeff Pelline’s call for ‘One Buck Chuck’ volunteers is laudable, but his assessment of how many people are already out there doing things seems to be off the mark. When the community needs help, Nevada County is famous for being able to field volunteers at the drop of the hat. We are blessed with active service clubs (Rotary, Elks, etc.), churches, charities (Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc.), issue-oriented activist organizations, affinity clubs, business associations, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and unpaid quasi-governmental commissions and committees all staffed with people who don’t even collect one buck for their services.

But as Jeff points out, there remain certain areas where qualified volunteers could be very useful to Nevada County governments, their working commissions, and departments. These volunteers could do many of the tasks that are currently being done by paid consultants. They would come from the community’s active professionals, some recently retired from business, academe, and the military. Many of them have valuable skills and experience under their belts in planning, development, organization, and the sciences which would be very useful to the community. And many more would gladly volunteer their time and energies through appropriate organizations and programs.

One such organization is the Sierra Environmental Studies Foundation, a new county think tank in issues analysis, systems development, and program planning. SESF is an all volunteer, non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)3 foundation (sesfoundation.org). We promote voter education and study community issues such as affordable housing, traffic, air quality, etc., and present our findings in online reports and invited presentations to interested organizations, government boards, councils, and departments. We work directly with county departments in such areas as large scale emergency planning, and are constantly looking for additional qualified people to sink their teeth into policy and regulatory issues facing our county.

SESF also administers TechTest, a merit scholarship program for the county’s high school seniors headed for careers in technology and the sciences. The Union provided excellent coverage of TechTest2007 which was administered in March with scholarships awarded in May. For the coming term, in addition to TechTest2008, we are also setting up a new tutoring/mentoring program as a teacher resource for their science and math students. SESF has a growing list of volunteers who will be paired with students for augmentation and advanced study assignments. We are currently soliciting more volunteers with technology backgrounds who are willing to work with the county’s young people.

There are also a number of other organizations such as the county’s Rotary clubs which fund and run many beneficial programs in our community and also internationally (e.g. Mexico, Uganda), all of them staffed by Zero Buck Chuck volunteers. Not every one of these service organizations has a strong suit in public relations and getting the word out. As the voice of Nevada County, The Union can help grow our volunteer legions by recognizing and shining a bright light on these ongoing activities.

George Rebane lives in Nevada City

Editor’s note: Thanks Mr. Rebane. I was referring to qualified volunteers for certain areas of Nevada County governments. As you point out, the potential exists for greater input – and now is a good time considering the growing costs of governments. (See our story on page A1 today). Like many of you, my colleagues and I at The Union hold down full-time jobs and also volunteer for the non-government groups you mention, as well as many others. We also write about them daily, such as Edie Heller on the front page of today’s paper. Earlier this year, we sent our city editor Trina Kleist on a Rotary-sponsored trip to Mexico with volunteer dental workers. The list is long, not to mention the blogging that you and others do on our Web site to promote your groups. As always, we welcome your submissions and suggestions.

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