Gratitude isn’t always expressed aloud.
For the 7,064 volunteers of Franklin County, however, thanks is shown by celebrating their generosity, time and commitment to volunteering with a luncheon during national volunteer week, Janice Craft, acting director at the Ottawa Volunteer Center, said.
“Volunteer recognition is one of the cornerstones of professional volunteer management,” Craft said. “Sometimes in a very busy work environment, it’s difficult to think of ways to honor the people that come and make sure your days get to stay open.”
Volunteer week in Franklin County begins April 22, kicking off with a social media workshop, followed by an improving communication workshop April 25 and the celebratory volunteers luncheon 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 26 at Washburn Towers, 526 S. Main St.
Since 2010, Franklin County has seen a steady increase in volunteers, and those numbers only represent nonprofit organizations, Craft said.
“The data that I keep doesn’t include churches or civic organizations,” Craft said. “Can you imagine how many hours of service people are giving to those two types of entities?”
Some groups depend on volunteer efforts to help keep their doors open — a fact some people don’t realize, Craft said.
“There are some organizations in Franklin County that are 100-percent volunteer. There is no one on staff that is paid,” Craft said. “ ... If they didn’t have volunteers, I don’t see how they could stay open.”
Two activities scheduled for volunteer week are workshops to help professional volunteer management properly train volunteers, Craft said.
“[Lisa Johnson, Franklin County administrator] will be talking mostly about utilizing the social media to hire and manage employees, and some of the pitfalls of the organization,” Craft said. “Because we like to think of volunteers in the same way as employees — just not paid — we think volunteers should be treated with the same respect as paid employees.”
A workshop on improving communication, presented by Craft, can help management train volunteers on proper communication skills with customers, she said.
“Sometimes the volunteer can become the face of your organization so their communication skills are extremely important,” Craft said. “United Way in Topeka has volunteers sitting at their front desk, so the first contact you have with the organization is a conversation with a volunteer.”
Anyone interested in volunteering, but not sure where to start, can pick up a booklet at the Ottawa Volunteer Center, 1320 S. Ash St., Craft said.
“I’ll sit down with them and assess their interests,” she said. “I’m a firm believer in trying to match what your interests and education background are, and how that can fit with an organization’s need.”
Being able to give back to the community can help a person develop an intrinsic pleasure in supporting his or her home community, Craft said.
“I think by volunteering it makes you feel good about yourself and your community,” she said. “People I talk to doing volunteerism often say to me, ‘I get more out of this than I’m giving.”’