A Winning Recipe for Volunteerism: A Program in North Carolina Takes College Students, Mixes in Individuals with Disabilities and Adds Park Staff Support to Create a Winning Combination
Stroud, Suzanne, Miller, Kimberly D., Schleien, Stuart J., Adams, Bill, Parks & Recreation
How many hours did your staff spend spreading mulch or pine needles? Does your agency need to clear a new trail, but lack the staff time to get it accomplished? Are citizens asking to volunteer in your park, but you lack the resources to effectively manage them on projects? Are you being asked to expand the successful programs that you currently offer? Has it also been suggested that you serve a more diverse population? Why not begin to address all of these issues at once.
The Greensboro (NC) Parks and Recreation department found a way to do just that. Instead of managing individual volunteers, the agency designed programs where volunteering was the targeted recreational activity. The recreational needs of individuals with and without disabilities are being met, while agencies are reaping the benefits of hundreds of volunteer hours through this inclusive park program.
The traditional model of engaging volunteers focuses exclusively on meeting the needs of the agency. By matching individual volunteers with needed tasks within the agency, short-term outcomes for the facility are realized. However, if volunteers' needs are not also met, they are likely to become short-term visitors. In addition, managing volunteers who support your park can be a time-consuming endeavor.
Think about structuring a recreation program where volunteering is the essence of the experience. Through this unique and active recreational pursuit, participants are likely to see increases in skill development, self-esteem, social networking, sense of community and empowerment. Extraordinary outcomes result when a group of volunteers become part of a team of individuals working toward a common goal. A sense of camaraderie and belonging develops as individuals work side-by-side with other altruistic citizens.
Add an additional layer to this "volunteering as recreation" strategy. Actively invite individuals with disabilities to join your volunteer program; that is people who have rarely, if ever, been asked to give back to their communities. Despite comprising approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population, researchers …
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Publication information: Article title: A Winning Recipe for Volunteerism: A Program in North Carolina Takes College Students, Mixes in Individuals with Disabilities and Adds Park Staff Support to Create a Winning Combination. Contributors: Stroud, Suzanne - Author, Miller, Kimberly D. - Author, Schleien, Stuart J. - Author, Adams, Bill - Author. Magazine title: Parks & Recreation. Volume: 41. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2006. Page number: 50+. © 2009 National Recreation and Park Association. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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