First of a two part series by Debbie Sebastian, former Yosemite High School journalism instructor:
Due to budget cuts and fluctuating donations in a weakened economy the past few years, education and non-profits continue to struggle financially. The result is fewer staff and programs and an increased need for volunteers to insure programs and services continue.
Making a personal contribution of time and talent to the community at large can be achieved through volunteerism and the Mountain Area provides a variety of opportunities to those who would like to help, including the following:
Madera County Library Oakhurst Branch
"I like to read and the library has always been a big part of my life since the age of seven. I would always stop at the library on my way home from school," said Ingrid Carhart who has volunteered at the Madera County Library Oakhurst Branch for more than six years.
She is a director on the Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library (FOBL) board and helps to get the word out about the monthly book sales held by the FOBL by distributing flyers. The FOBL also holds collectible book sales three to four times a year where cookbooks in mint condition, coffee table books and sometimes rare finds are sold. Two to three times each year there is a $3 per grocery bag of books sale.
"There is a very small staff for the volume of circulation the library has so volunteers are essential to be able to provide good service to the community," said Sara Robison who has volunteered about six years at the library.
"This library could not run as efficiently as we do without our volunteers," said Dale Rushing, branch manager of the library.
Library volunteer Rhonda Piume said the library is a wonderful place to volunteer.
"It has allowed me to meet so many great people of all ages and it keeps me busy and active in the community," Piume said.
Volunteer activities include:
shelving and organizing books, media, and magazines.
story time on Thursdays.
monthly book sales.
summer reading program.
organization of seasonal tax forms.
Volunteers may set their own hours and days within the parameters of when the library is open to the public, Rushing said.
To become a volunteer for the library, a volunteer form must be filled out and a copy of the volunteer's driver's license is also required. Upon approval from the county, the volunteer will be called to set up an orientation date and time.
Details: The library is located at 49044 Civic Circle, Oakhurst. (559) 683-4838, maderacountylibrary.org, OakhurstFOBL.com, and Facebook: Oakhurst Branch Library.
Mountain Area Literacy Council
The Mountain Area Literacy Council (MALCO) needs two types of volunteers. Board members would serve two to four hours per month and do not have to be tutors, and/or tutors who would work six to 12 hours per month.
"We ask our volunteers to commit to two hour and a half tutoring sessions per week with their assigned student," said Terry Newland, MALCO president, who is also the volunteer contact person at (559) 642-6298.
Tutors are trained and all materials needed are provided to tutors and students at no charge. Tutors need only need to be able to read.
"We teach them (tutors) how to teach speakers of other languages to speak, read, and write English using the Laubach method," said Newland. This method has been used worldwide for almost 80 years.
"The English language is so much harder than others. It's important for people who are living here and working here to learn to speak, read, and write in English because it helps them get better jobs," said Lynn Bott who has volunteered as a tutor with MALCO for two years.
Volunteers or those wishing to use the MALCO services, should call (559) 683-1456 (English), (559) 683-1457 (Spanish), or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
English as a Second Language (ESL) students meet with their assigned volunteer at the Madera County Library Oakhurst Branch.
Bass Lake School District
"We're looking for parent involvement but we're also looking for parent engagement," said Glenn Reid, Bass Lake School District superintendent.
The parent engagement might be conversation over the dinner table where parents inquire about the school day, as a volunteer in the classroom, or as an at home volunteer who cuts out individual pieces for a classroom activity. Volunteers to run copies and assemble classroom units for individual teachers are also needed.
"We can fit what we offer to what people want to try," Reid said.
Potential volunteers should contact the school where they wish to volunteer requesting a volunteer form. A current negative TB test is also required. Only volunteers who have a live scan fingerprint on file with the district can assist children outside of the teacher's supervision such as on a fieldtrip.
Yosemite Unified School District
At the high school level, volunteers might be needed for an identified need by a specific teacher, according to Jeanne Ratchford, principal's secretary at Yosemite High School.
Paperwork is available from Ratchford. A negative TB test recorded in the last 60 days must also be submitted.
At Coarsegold Elementary School volunteers are needed especially in the classroom. A volunteer who is a bit apprehensive about working in the classroom, may start out by listening to a student read to them or they may read to the student. Volunteers can learn about organizing and shelving books in the school library or work with small groups in the classroom under the supervision of the teacher.
Volunteer applications are available at the school office and additional information is available from the school office (559) 683-4842 or from Principal Bob Rose at ext. 254. A current TB test is also needed.
At Rivergold Elementary School, volunteers are being recruited to work with small reading or math groups in the classroom, to share an interest or professional knowledge about a subject with students, or as a member of the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program. The program is dads, grandfathers, and other father figures who volunteer on the campus for a full day. They might assist with playground supervisions, intramural sports, or other activities on campus. The program is being sponsored by the school's PTA.
Volunteers can contact Cindy Simons, principal, or Lisa Lorenzana for an application at (559) 658-7566.
Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst
"I believe those kids are wonderful. I've gained some friendships," said Natalie Misquez who had never done volunteer work prior to her summer experience at the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst (BGC).
Working with and mentoring children between the ages of six and 18 is the primary role a volunteer serves. Volunteers help children with homework tutoring, arts and crafts, computer skills, leadership or reading clubs, teen mentoring, sports, or even gardening.
Volunteers do not need to commit to a specific number of hours.
"The patience, compassion, and willingness to work with and care for kids are the most important skills to have if volunteering at BGC. It's all about teaching the skills and subjects we already have in place as well as bringing in new and exciting things for the kids to see and learn about," said Peggy Decker, club director.
Volunteers interested in working 15 hours or less may speak with Decker and pick up an application at the BGC which is behind the Oakhurst Elementary School and across the footbridge. Upon approval, they may begin volunteering.
Volunteers wanting to work more than 15 hours, need to fill out the application and be fingerprinted through the Fresno Boys & Girls Club and have those fingerprints clear before they begin. The address for the Fresno Club where documentation and fingerprinting is done is: 540 N. August Street, (559) 266-3117, Fax: (559) 266-0664.
Details: Peggy Decker, (559) 642-4600, BGCOakhurst.com.
Note: Additional Mountain Area organizations seeking volunteers will be featured in the Oct. 3 Sierra Star.