By RENEE FITE
The volunteer spirit is just one of the qualities of a community that boosts it to a higher standard.
Tahlequah has many amazing and caring citizens who volunteer, and the agencies and organizations where they donate time and talents make the community thrive.
Volunteers perform a variety of needed skills and services that free up time for the staff and add to the ability of the organizations to provide the services to the people in the community who require assistance.
Three of those nonprofits – Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee Country, the CARE Food Pantry, and the Murrell Home – provide advantages and opportunities, from protecting abused and neglected children, to feeding those in need and in protecting and preserving the history that makes the community unique.
Agency directors all agree that without volunteers, they wouldn’t be able to provide services or at least not do as much as they do. And they all can use donations of time and resources, especially funding.
“Cases of child abuse and neglect are up this summer,” said CASA Executive Director Jo Prout.
It’s hard to find enough volunteers for all the cases they serve, Prout said.
“We need for people to sign up to become CASA volunteers, which means to be a voice for children in court, to be an advocate for them,” she said.
Volunteers are CASA’s most pressing need, year in and year out, especially this summer.
“With an increase in cases coming into the courts this summer, more children are being mistreated and neglected,” said Prout. “We’re a small office and we take care of whatever we need – like filing – ourselves.”
Volunteers are given 36 hours of training, then sworn in by a judge, making them officers of the court. Once they’re sworn in, they’re authorized and empowered with a court order to gather information about their case.
“A CASA volunteer’s role is to accumulate information about a child or children in the case. Armed with that information, the CASA volunteer makes a recommendation about the child at that time,” Prout said. “The focus of a CASA volunteer is to always determine what is in the best interest of the child to be safe and in a permanent home.”
No special education or fees are required of volunteers, but they must be 21 or older and not a felon, she said.
“A program like ours, to provide service to abused and neglected children, couldn’t exist without volunteers,” Prout said,
Providing food, managing the computer and stocking shelves are some of the responsibilities for volunteers at the CARE Food Pantry.
Barbara Partak volunteers two mornings a month, and was working the computer Wednesday morning.
“We need people who can run the computer, hand out food in the back, stock shelves, and pick up food from restaurants and grocery stores,” Partak said.
The pantry is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. -to 12:30 p.m. Most volunteer two hours each month.
“Donations of food and sack lunches are also needed,” Partak said. “We can use small cans, like ravioli, beans, Vienna sausages, beans and franks, granola bars, small cakes, bottles of water or tea. One place donates deli sandwiches.”
Food and cash donations are also accepted.
“It’s a good place to volunteer. We see lots of really neat people, very appreciative. And it’s a good group of people to work with,” Partak said.
People interested in history are often those who decide to volunteer at the Murrell Home. The volunteers do everything from outdoor lawn care to computer work and cleaning indoors.
“The greatest need we have this summer is people to work outside weed eating, landscaping and gardening,” said Volunteer Coordinator Amanda Pritchett.
Re-enactors and people with their own 19th-century period clothing are also need for Living History volunteers.
“We do Living History demonstrations, school tours, events and it’s hit-and-miss if we have clothing for volunteers,” Pritchett said.
Other needs at the Murrell Home include curatorial work, she said.
“Sometimes volunteers help me clean artifacts and do inventory,” she said.
Run by the state, the only ante-bellum home in Oklahoma doesn’t have a lot of funding.
“We couldn’t do the scope of programming we do without volunteers. We only have three full-time staff,” Pritchett said.
“We wouldn’t be able to do the events or half the behind-the-scenes stuff without volunteers.”
Volunteers who donate time and talents at the Murrell Home are mostly people who like local history and want to help the community, Pritchett said.
Other agencies and nonprofits are currently seeking volunteers as well.
Carter Healthcare and Hospice needs volunteers to help provide compassionate and friendly care for patients. Appropriate training will be provided. For more information, call Mary Pat Rosenthal at (918) 458-0663.
Habitat for Humanity always accepts volunteers to help build and refurbish homes for low-income area residents. For information, call Executive Director Linda Cheatham at (918) 453-1332.
Tell us about it
Do you know a local volunteer who deserves to be profiled for his or her efforts? Contact Renee Fite at renee_fite@ yahoo.com with contact information.