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Published: Sunday, 12/29/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Many area organizations rich with volunteer opportunities

Time, skills, and talents are needed throughout the year

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Chrisann Sferra, left, a tutor in the Read for Literacy program, helps Tanya Lucas at the Main Library. Ms. Sferra, a former community college professor, has been volunteering for years.  Chrisann Sferra, left, a tutor in the Read for Literacy program, helps Tanya Lucas at the Main Library. Ms. Sferra, a former community college professor, has been volunteering for years.
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Linda Wininger began volunteering for Hospice of Northwest Ohio more than 20 years ago after others told her about the strong support the agency offers to patients and families.

Her involvement with hospice has ranged from visiting homes to giving respite for caregivers and companionship for patients who are dying to singing in a bedside choir at hospice facilities.

“It has been a true privilege to have done this for 20 years, and that is helping people during the most personal time in their lives,” said Mrs. Wininger of Millbury, Ohio, in Wood County.

Hospice of Northwest Ohio is among the many area organizations that offer opportunities for people who want to volunteer their time, skills, and talents throughout the year, giving support and care to others in the community.

Gina Kasch, director of volunteer services for hospice, said volunteers such as Mrs. Wininger are the heart and backbone of hospice.

“She is very versatile and really takes the mission of the agency to heart,” she said.

Last year, nearly 300 volunteers donated an estimated 22,000 hours in personal time for hospice-related services. The organization offers opportunities for people to work directly with patients at its facilities in Perrysburg Township and South Toledo or go into nursing homes or residences of patients.

Currently, Mrs. Wininger and her husband, Rob Wininger, provide companionship to hospice patients in an Oregon nursing home.

“My advice to people who want to volunteer is to try new things, and if you don’t like it then try something else,” Mrs. Wininger said. “I would have not continued to be a volunteer if it had not been a good experience for me.

“There are different varieties of volunteer opportunities. There is something for everybody."

Mr. Wininger said he began volunteering with hospice about seven years ago after seeing the satisfaction it was providing to his wife. “She inspired me,” he said. “I could see how much she enjoyed it.”

Another agency, Read for Literacy, relies on 1,600 volunteers who have donated their time to become trained to tutor people struggling with poor reading skills. The nonprofit group, which operates out of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, has helped more than 5,000 adults to increase their literacy levels through one-on-one and small-group tutoring. With partner agencies, Read for Literacy also pairs volunteers with children in schools, Head Start sites, and elementary schools.

Chrisann Sferra, who is a former community college professor, has been involved in community volunteerism for years and joined the Read for Literacy program to help adults read.

On afternoons two days each week, Mrs. Sferra meets with Tanya Lucas in a conference room in the downtown library.

Ms. Lucas was reading at a midfirst-grade level when she was paired with Mrs. Sferra 10 months ago, but she is now reading and comprehending at the sixth-grade ranking.

Mrs. Sferra said watching Ms. Lucas improve over the months has been satisfying.

“When I come here I feel like I am seeing an old friend,” she said. “It makes me feel that I know my time is well spent and that I can bring something to the table.”

The United Way of Greater Toledo helps people who want to volunteer their time and skills to nonprofit organizations.

Emily Avery, director of community engagement, said United Way, which serves Lucas, Ottawa, and Wood counties, matches prospective volunteers to more than 250 nonprofit groups and faith-based programs through a survey of their interests, likes, the distance they are willing to travel, and time they would like to offer.

“We work with them to make sure we can make an appropriate match,” Ms. Avery said.

Last year, United Way helped more than 10,000 individuals who donated their time and skills in various capacities, which ranged from one-day participation or year-long service.

Information on volunteering can be obtained through 2-1-1, the United Way’s 24-hour, seven-day-a-week information referral service, or unitedwaytoledo.org, where a volunteer section allows one to search for opportunities in a particular geographic area or by interests.

The Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio Inc. matches the passions and interests of volunteers ages 55 and older with places and agencies they can serve. The agency’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program looks at the experience and skills of volunteers to connect them with nonprofit organizations, schools, and agencies.

“There are lots of different kinds of opportunities,” said Sally Davies, RSVP director. “They can get involved in education in literacy areas. We have volunteers serving in thrift stores and volunteering their services in home delivery of meals to seniors.”

The agency recruits volunteers for the Toledo Police Department’s Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol program, which does home visits to seniors who are trying to live independently. Volunteers can also donate their time for a couple hours by going into the homes to give caregivers of spouses and parents a break so they can get out of the residence.

Volunteers are the first point of contact patients have when they walk into the Veterans Administration outpatient clinic at 1200 S. Detroit Ave., said Vi Grzyowski, who is in charge of the voluntary service center at the clinic.

She said volunteers use golf carts to transport veterans from their vehicles in the parking lot to the reception area, and they also have fresh coffee and other refreshments available.

“They really are the backbone of what we do here,” Mrs. Grzyowski said.

The clinic, which opened in July, 2012, has about 110 volunteers.

The Metroparks of Toledo has many year-round opportunities, including serving as patrols on trails in the Metropark system, serving refreshments at teas in the Manor House in Wildwood Preserve, monitoring wildlife, and teaching park visitors about nature. Some training is required for the volunteer work.

Trish Hausknecht, volunteer program manager for the Metroparks, said more than 3,000 volunteers donated about 46,000 hours of time in 2012.

“Whether someone would like to work outdoors or indoors, in education or restoration, we have opportunities available depending on the season,” she said.

The Metroparks will begin a new round of recruitment in January for the park system’s Volunteer Roving Interpreter program as well as its Volunteer Trail Patrol, which requires people to devote at least 50 hours a year to assisting park visitors while walking the trails.

An informational meeting about the volunteer trail program is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 5 in the Wildwood Ward Pavilion at Wildwood Preserve. Trail volunteers act as communications links for park users, promote safe use of the trail system, and provide information and assistance.

An orientation session for the Volunteer Roving Interpreter program, which asks people to give 25 hours per year and attend required training, will be held at 9 a.m. on Jan. 11 in the boardroom at Wildwood Preserve. Those volunteers work in a variety of settings and provide information about the parks.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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