Stillwater News Press

August 30, 2010

Stillwater Volunteer Center matches up local agencies and volunteers

By Laura Wilson
family@stwnewspress.com

STILLWATER, Okla. — Some people want to volunteer, but don’t know where to find work.

Some organizations and agencies in Stillwater need volunteers, but don’t know where to find them.

The Stillwater Volunteer Center has a solution to both problems. It is in the business both of finding out what people want to do and what needs to be done.

“The thing we try to do is simply match up people interested in volunteering with community agencies that need volunteers,” advisory board member and volunteer Esther Winterfeldt said.

A task force began looking into the possibility of a volunteer center last year, said Sheri Carter, Stillwater Area United Way executive director. The center is housed in the United Way office on East Ninth Avenue.

After deciding the need was there, volunteers got busy planning and renovating office space and opened the center in April. The center, at 107 E. Ninth Ave., will have an open house from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The building where Stillwater Volunteer Center is located was given to the United Way, and “a whole slew of volunteers came in and really fixed it up,” Carter said.

The building, she added, is the oldest community building in Stillwater and was the city’s first bank, so the workers tried to keep its historical aspects intact.

The center is staffed by volunteers, who will serve as hostesses at the open house, Carter said. About 40 agencies and organizations, including Stillwater Public Schools, and 30 volunteers have registered, she added. Several more have signed up to volunteer in the last week, she said.

People who want to volunteer fills out two forms, which are available online at stillwaterunitedway.org/pages/volunteers or can be faxed, e-mailed or picked up at the United Way office. Potential volunteers can list interests, preferred volunteer times, abilities and more.

Agencies who need volunteers also get two forms to fill out. They do not have to be United Way agencies, Carter stressed. A volunteer coordinator will call and get more information and then “work on trying to make a match,” she said.

Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency used Stillwater Volunteer Center to fill a couple of spots, Development Officer Clara Lewis said. When COCAA needed someone to mow its lawn, Lewis said, she called the volunteer center, which connected the agency with a volunteer.

“We’ve been blessed with using him because we’ve not had to try to locate someone or pay someone,” she said. “It’s great that he’s done it free of charge in 100-degree weather.”

Stillwater Volunteer Center also helped COCAA find a graphic designer to create logos for letterhead and envelopes, particularly for its recent Boots and Bandanas fundraiser, Lewis said.

“It’s a great thing when you can get things done like that for free from people who love to give to their community,” she said.

The volunteer center is particularly good for people who retire to Stillwater, Winterfeldt said. She retired in the early 1990s from Oklahoma State University, where she was head of the department of nutritional sciences, then worked at two other universities as interim department head before returning to OSU in an interim position. She retired again two years ago, she said. Now, she volunteers at the center and at Stillwater Community Health Center and other places in Stillwater.

“Lots of people are retiring and looking for a place to plug in and have no idea where to start,” Carter explained.

Not everyone who calls the volunteer center is a retiree, however. This summer, Carter said, a local business sent its employees through the volunteer center to help Payne County Youth Services with a golf tournament.

She said the center’s aim is to do for community members what OSU’s volunteer center does for students.

“Our goal is to try to find a place for a person that will make them a long-term volunteer,” she said.