HomeBerlin Letters & OpinionsThe gift of time: Volunteers are crucial to the community

The gift of time: Volunteers are crucial to the community

Volunteerism is alive and well in South Jersey.

Three married couples were recently cited for their volunteer service in one area fire department, including providing meals for firefighters and even playing Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Christmas. One volunteer is known as “mom” around the firehouse.

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It happens often that The Sun will feature a story about community volunteerism. That’s because volunteers – both individuals and families – can be the lifeblood of communities that can’t always afford to pay for services. 

We just passed the Martin Luther King Day of Service, an opportunity for area residents to donate their time and services, in activities that range from visiting home-bound senior citizens to collecting donations for a food pantry. But these kinds of actions happen every day in South Jersey, and very often they involve a police or fire department.

The organization sjvolunteers.org is in the business of coordinating volunteer service in the area by connecting potential volunteers with opportunities to give back; providing nonprofits with resources and education on volunteer service; and enhancing communities with service projects and other volunteer initiatives, according to its website.

The organization began in 1996 as the Volunteer Center of Gloucester County and incorporated all of South Jersey as sjvolunteers.org in 2013. More than 7,000 nonprofits are currently registered with the group, as are 275 volunteers.  

“We strive to be much more than a volunteer center,” sj.volunteers.org notes. “As a nonprofit, capacity-building partner, we help nonprofits recruit, retain and recognize their volunteers, providing opportunities to network, learn and expand their capacity.”

Those opportunities include Crocheting for a Cause, where volunteers create an item at home to benefit others, including hats for babies and chemo caps for kids. Volunteers can also offer to man prize tables or break down equipment after a local event, or they can choose to be placed by sj.volunteers.org “wherever there’s a need.”

Among those needs are services provided by police, fire and EMS departments, many of whom are experiencing cuts in their budgets. Volunteers augment the work of paid officers and firefighters, according to the National Police Association. 

For the police, they might perform tasks like fingerprinting, radar speed checking and abandoned vehicle checks. For fire departments, they can be asked to drive a fire vehicle and operate water pumps. Search and rescue can come into play for volunteers during an emergency, when they might conduct systematic searches for trapped or injured people. The Red Cross uses volunteers in emergencies to provide support for families and connect victims with long-term recovery services.

In general, there are about 1.4 million volunteers in all areas of service in New Jersey, according to the Governor’s Office of Volunteerism. The office helps train volunteers and match them with services through schools, churches and other community groups like the United Way and Jersey Cares. 

Rowan College of South Jersey began a partnership with sjvolunteers.org in 2019, through its Volunteer and Civic Engagement Office. It serves students and staff on both the Gloucester and Cumberland County campuses. 

There are myriad ways to “change lives, empower families and improve the community,” as sjvolunteers.org puts it. Find more information about volunteering in South Jersey by visiting county websites or sjvolunteers (galaxydigital.com).

Your community will thank you.  


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