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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the December 18, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Making the Most Of Holiday Volunteers

The urge to take part in some hands-on helping often

strikes at about the time Thanksgiving turkeys make their first appearance

and reaches a crescendo in the cold, dark days before the end of the

year. With goodwill a major theme of the season, and the urgency of

need easy to grasp against a backdrop of holiday cheer, many people

suddenly feel an urge to help out. Collecting coats, serving dinners

to the homeless, giving toys to children who have none, all of these

simple acts of charity seem important — necessary — during

the year-end holidays.

This is the time of year when non-profits get calls from individuals,

office groups, and families hoping to help out. Not thinking about

the organizational issues involved in putting untrained volunteers

to work with little notice, many people hope to put in a holiday appearance

at a soup kitchen or food bank.

Accommodate them all as best as possible. This is the message of Charity

Channel (, an online resource for the non-profit

community. No, it is not easy, Georgean Johnson-Coffey acknowledges

in an article on the website, but the effort pays off richly long

term. Here’s her advice:

Smile. Be positive, pleasant, and enthusiastic. You never

know how these folks are connected and they should always be viewed

as potential long term volunteers.

Harvest. View holiday volunteers as a built-in group for

which you do not have to recruit. They will come — prepare, plan,

and involve them.

Simplify. Simplify your application process in order to

involve holiday volunteers.

Share. If you can not use holiday volunteers, network

with other area agencies that do utilize them. Refer interested people

to agencies that you know will be able to involve them.

Start small. The first time that you involve holiday volunteers,

start small. Acknowledge to them that this is a new service and tell

them they are part of a pilot program and they will help give feedback

for improvement for next year.

Leverage. Holiday volunteers contacted you because of

an interest in what your agency accomplishes. Take advantage of this.

Send a thank-you note to those who inquire with a list of current

needs that includes long and short-term volunteer opportunities. One

of these may spark future interests on their part.

Think ahead. When a potential volunteer calls, discover

what their passion, skills, and interests are. You may not be able

to place them at the holidays, but you may be able to plug them into

an upcoming event or opening.

Holiday volunteers can be a challenge, but they are also a wonderful

opportunity to involve talented, motivated individuals. With the right

perspective, positive attitude, and careful planning, holiday volunteers

can indeed be precious gifts to volunteer programs, agencies, and

to our communities.

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The Business and Professional Women of Hightstown/East

Windsor is now accepting applications for its Career Development

awards. These awards are given to women 25 years of age or older who

are continuing their education or are returning to school in a 2-year,

4-year, or vocational training program.

The application deadline is February 28. Call 609-443-4593 for an


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