MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - This week is National Volunteer Week, a week to thank the volunteers who keep many organizations running, and shine a light on the impact they have in our communities.
Every year during this week, Hands On River Region recognizes its “Volunteers of the Year”. That wasn’t able to happen last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So this year, Hands On River Region made some adjustments.
“We had about two dozen nominees from last year, they fall into five categories adult, youth group, and seniors, who were nominated by members of their community, the nonprofit organizations they serve, as outstanding volunteers,” explained Executive Director Tasha Cooper.
Copper says when 2021 came around, they knew they were going to do something a little different. So this year, they are honoring volunteers virtually
“But we just added a new category for 2021,” Cooper said. “So, we opened up nominations for COVID community heroes. And what we were really looking for is nominations of individuals, in spite of everything that has happened in now, from March 2020 on, has been able to give back to the community in various ways and really shine as a volunteer throughout this pandemic. And we had about 19 nominees, and we’re gonna honor one COVID community hero.”
Pandemic, or no pandemic, volunteers have proven to be incredibly valuable to the communities they serve. Cooper said the organization has roughly a million dollars in impact, usually about $1.6 million, that’s brought back to the River Region.
“So, that is tremendous when you think about the work that is being done in our communities, and Hands On River Region serves as that vehicle to connect over 200 nonprofits in the River Region, with people who are interested, whether that be a one-time volunteer opportunity, maybe during one of our national days of service, you know that we usually we usually hold different national days of service throughout the year for large scale volunteer events, or whether it’s an ongoing volunteer opportunity,” Cooper said.
Since the start of the pandemic, Hands On River Region is adjusting its volunteer opportunities to allow more people to help safely.
“Because when COVID first came into this area and really started to impact Alabama and the River Region, we saw a huge decline in volunteerism, and rightfully so, as individuals, we’re concerned about being exposed to too many people, you know, when to keep safe. And so that really made us start to think outside of the box,” Cooper added.
Cooper said they thought about ways to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities that would help the organization and provide people that want to volunteer with that opportunity to work independently at home.
“And then of course, we have everyday daily volunteer opportunities like MACOA with their meals on wheels program,” Cooper said. “Eat South is a great partner of ours if you want to get outside and, and do a little gardening, there’s great opportunities there. If you’re interested in animals and helping with animals, we have some various animal shelters in the community that are always looking for folks to help walk dogs clean out kennels, you know, sometimes it doesn’t seem like the most glamorous things to do, but those are much-needed jobs that are very important to the day to day aspects and activities of our organizations.”
We’ll see more and more virtual volunteer opportunities in the future, Cooper explained. To connect with Hands On River Region and become a volunteer, visit www.handsonriverregion.org
You can watch the “Volunteer of the Year” awards online at https://fb.me/e/dN1g2qg5L Thursday at 5:30 p.m.