Volunteer in waiting

Kristopher LaGreca is a graduate student at California State University, Sacramento

With continuing cuts in state and county budgets, an already dire situation has gotten worse. There has never been a better time for people to volunteer. I decided that now was the time for me to get involved, by reading to children.

I thought this would be easy—that there must be an endless supply of places in the Sacramento area where I could volunteer my time to help others. After all, our community has a wealth of city, county, religious and volunteer programs and services. All one should have to do, so went my thinking, is to pick up a phone, place a call and connect with a program.

So, what happened when I called these numerous outlets? The response was, well, disadvantaged and needy.

First, I started with my church and then my diocese. No luck. Then it was on to Web searches for ideas. I found a plethora of “volunteer programs” that look to coordinate volunteers and organizations. No luck there, either, or at any of the outreach centers listed. Then I made calls to various departments of social services, followed by visits to the Boys & Girls Club and the Central Library.

To date, I have visited four locations, left eight messages and talked with four phone operators who have only been able to give me vague suggestions of whom else I could contact. Somewhere, I know there are children who need someone to spend time with them, and yet they remain out of my caring distance.

I think it’s time that all service organizations, outreach programs and religious institutions sit down and ask themselves some serious questions: “Are we connecting volunteers with appropriate opportunities?” “Are we informed of the social services available in our community?” and “Are we truly putting forth an effort to answer questions, return calls and educate ourselves and our community?” Given the need most charitable organizations claim to have for volunteers, it seems to me these are pretty basic things they would want to address.

I have a desire to volunteer, so I am making the first step. I hope that organizations that need volunteers will take the next step and seriously work to help people like me connect with opportunities in our community.