LIFT-UP honors workers during Volunteer Week | SteamboatToday.com

LIFT-UP honors workers during Volunteer Week

Blythe Terrell

Volunteer Rebecca Lea has been sifting through bags of donated items at LIFT-UP of Routt County since it opened in 1997. She is one of about 65 volunteers at the agency who were honored last week during National Volunteer Week.

— Some of the boxes Rebecca Lea has opened at LIFT-UP contained $300 dresses with the price tags still attached.

Some contained dead snakes or mice.

The volunteer has worked at the agency’s thrift store since it opened in 1997, and it’s not the occasional dead animal that keeps her coming back.

“When my life gets hectic, I can go to LIFT-UP, and I can sort clothes, and : it can provide some perspective,” Lea said. “You have to throw some things away because they’re in bad condition, and you think, ‘Wow, somebody was wearing this and thought it was in good enough condition to donate to LIFT-UP.'”

LIFT-UP honored Lea and others last week for National Volunteer Week, established by President Richard Nixon’s order in 1974. LIFT-UP Executive Director David Freseman said his agency was grateful for the service of Lea and the rest of the organization’s volunteer crew. The agency delivered handwritten thank-you notes to its 65 or so volunteers and publicly thanked them.

Organizations across the community use volunteers such as Lea to keep their wheels turning. If they had to pay for those services, a lot of nonprofit groups couldn’t do it, Freseman said. Independent Sector tracks their actual dollar value. The group includes members of corporations, foundations and private voluntary organizations, and it works to strengthen nonprofit organizations, according to its Web site.

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It put the estimated value of volunteer time at $20.25 for 2008, an increase from $19.51 an hour in 2007. For Colorado, the worth was $20.84 an hour in 2008.

LIFT-UP’s 65 volunteers provide about 100 hours of service per year apiece, Freseman said. According to those numbers, LIFT-UP’s volunteers are worth $135,460.

Independent Sector calculates the value based on the average hourly wage for nonmanagement, non-agriculture workers as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a 12 percent increase to estimate for benefits, according to a news release.

Lending a hand

Brie Neppl contributes valuable hours to Advocates Building Peaceful Communities. Volunteers for the agency “respond to a client in crisis, they provide support services, resources and referrals, crisis counseling (and) they can respond to the hospital if need be,” Volunteer Coordinator Amelia Sidinger said.

Neppl said she has volunteered with Advocates for about six years, starting because she wanted to help the community. Although it’s tough to get calls late at night from victims of domestic violence and other crimes, Neppl said it is worth knowing she helped someone.

“Victims that have gotten through situations or gotten stronger, you hear about that through the office, and that always makes you feel good,” she said.

At Advocates, volunteers work an average of 6,336 hours in a year, Sidinger said. Their services are worth $132,042, using the Independent Sector estimates.

At the Tread of Pioneers Museum, volunteers contributed about 2,800 hours last year, Volunteer Coordinator Katy Taylor said. She has a call list about 50 people strong to rely on when the museum needs help. That help was worth about $58,352.

Volunteers work at the front desk, do research for the museum or work special events, Taylor said.

“They’re great, and we really do rely on them for so many things,” she said. “I think it’s just fantastic that we have so many folks in the community that want to help us.”

Staying involved

Freseman said it seemed to him that Steamboat had a more active volunteer community than most cities its size.

“It’s a very good thing to celebrate here,” Freseman said. “I think the mindset in Steamboat is to volunteer.”

According to the Community Indicators Project by Yampa Valley Partners, Routt County residents donated 3.2 percent of their income to nonprofit groups in 2005, an increase from 1.8 percent in 2004. That number represents only people who itemize deductions on their federal tax returns.

Routt had 122 501(c)3 nonprofit groups in 2008, up from 73 in 2000. Arts, culture and humanities represented the largest number of those, 20.

Neppl encouraged people to find a group they’re interested in and help out. Lea, the LIFT-UP volunteer, said she loved the camaraderie of volunteer work – and the way it feels to help the Yampa Valley.

“We just have an extremely generous community,” she said.

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