Retiring from work isn’t necessarily a time to sit still. Volunteering can offer a sense of accomplishment, new friends and a chance to give back to the community.
In the past year more than 1,800 people have registered online with the Volunteer Center of Whatcom County, and more have connected to opportunities through their office at the Opportunity Council in downtown Bellingham. The organization offers a way to pair volunteer skills with over 150 partner organizations in need of help.
“Our website allows organizations to post their volunteer needs online,” Volunteer and Event Coordinator Summer Starr says. “We also do a weekly ‘Hot Sheet’ highlighting a few of the positions available.
“Individuals can create a profile on the website and follow particular organizations that interest them. Look for organizations that are meaningful to you. You can even pet cats for the alternative humane society.
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“By setting up a profile, they automatically get the volunteer newsletter. When they work they can actually translate their hours into dollars and recognize the monetary value they have offered.”
Originally created in 1971 as the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) for volunteers 55 and older, the organization expanded in 1994 to become the The Volunteer Center of Whatcom County, linking volunteers of all ages to local agencies and nonprofits. It also manages volunteers for its own programs, including Home 2 Home, a furniture bank for families who were previously homeless, and “CHORE,” a program assisting low income seniors and adults with disabilities by connecting them with volunteers to help them stay in their homes.
“CHORE volunteers can help with house cleaning, home repairs, yard work and other essential tasks that can make the difference between living independently or having to move into assisted living.” Volunteer Chore Program Specialist Abby Lund says.
“The program is very flexible. Volunteers create their own schedule, helping with ongoing or with one-time needs. We have retired nurses, caregivers and carpenters, but anyone can volunteer to help and also provide companionship for people who are otherwise often isolated. Volunteers drive clients to medical appointments, install grab bars, build wheelchair ramps or even change the smoke detector battery, which can be a huge thing for keeping our client’s home safe.
“Having someone who cares about you, ensuring that you have food or a clean, safe environment when you can’t do it yourself makes such a difference in our client’s spirit and the way they look at each day.”
Lund stresses that volunteers get as much from serving as the recipient.
“It’s important knowing that you’re appreciated and making a difference while making a friend in the process,” she said. “One of the longest matches we had here was 10 years. When you really make that connection with a client, and the fit is good, it is beneficial for both of them.”
Volunteer Center of Whatcom County
How to volunteer:
Address: 1419 Cornwall St. in Bellingham