SHERIDAN — Since 1974, one week in April has been dedicated to celebrating the nation’s volunteers.
This year, National Volunteer Week is from April 23-29, and while Senior Center director of volunteer services Terri Hayden said they’re recognizing their volunteers this week, she said it’s no different than the recognition the center tries to give them every day.
“To quote (communications director) Lois Bell, ‘We acknowledge and recognize our volunteers 365 days a year,’” Hayden said. “It’s not just one week, it’s a daily occurrence with these volunteers.”
Hayden said the Senior Center has approximately 600 volunteers in all its programs. Among others this includes, one-time event volunteers, volunteers doing assessments for Dementia Friendly Wyoming, dining room volunteers, Heritage Towers volunteers and drivers for home-delivered meals, which has the largest group of volunteers at the Senior Center.
Home delivery coordinator Holli Weber said the group has about 200 to 250 volunteers. She said some drivers have been giving their time for more than 30 years and they even have drivers that are in their late 80s.
Weber said on snow days they have more people from the community and members of the Senior Center administration office stop by to see if they need extra help with the 15 routes.
To show their appreciation to the drivers, Weber said Senior Center staff set out cookies and snacks and drivers have the option of taking a meal each day they deliver.
Hayden, who started working with the Senior Center in early April, said the center has decided to do something small for Volunteer Week and postponed the larger volunteer celebration. She said in September, to coincide with the center’s grand opening after construction, they will also have a celebration to recognize the volunteers.
This week she said they’re showing appreciations with something sweet. Hayden put together candy buckets for all the volunteer groups and business sponsors with punny thank you notes, like, “We’re bursting with gratitude,” to go along with a bucket of Starburst candy.
While Center for a Vital Community Executive Director Amy Albrecht said many volunteers don’t do it for the recognition, she said it’s important to still show thanks because of how much organizations rely on them.
Albrecht said she recently distributed a survey that included a question asking how much organizations rely on volunteers. She said while some responses said as low as 10 percent, many said as much as 80 to 100 percent of an organization’s work relied on volunteers.
Albrecht also serves as a member on The Food Group’s board. She said The Food Group throws a volunteer appreciation party, but people don’t generally come because they’re not looking for recognition. Still, she said it’s important to show gratitude.
“They’re coming out when the weather’s awful or they’re busy or they’ve had something going on in their life, and they’re still there” Albrecht said. “…I think it’s easy to sometimes take them for granted and be so thankful for them but not always tell them, and this is a great way to bring it to your attention as an organization.”
This includes volunteers like Senior Center volunteer Barbara Whiteman who works in the dining room three days a week.
Whiteman has volunteered at the Senior Center for about eight years and said she doesn’t really pay attention to how volunteers are recognized. She said she volunteers because it was time to give back to the community.
“It’s just fun and I’m glad that people are willing to volunteer,” Whiteman said, “because we all need help from time to time.”