The cost of volunteerism: Nonprofits talk the value in people

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers reads a proclamation about volunteerism as County Family and Community Health Agent Joyce White looks on Tuesday.

One Grayson County office had 337 volunteers who together put in 16,000 hours which would equate to about $444,000 worth of labor for projects in the community in 2020. Another local organization said in fiscal year 2020, that organization received 4,370 volunteer hours which equated to about $96,140 worth of services. And another said in the last 12 months, 4,015.3 service hours were donated by volunteers. That means that during a year when people were most worried about health, pay checks and maintaining lifestyle norms, many people were concerned about ways to make sure this community was alive and well.

This week, communities around the nation celebrated Volunteer Appreciation Week. Grayson County observed the holiday Tuesday with a declaration by the Grayson County Commissioners.

The proclamation county commissioners approved Tuesday for National Volunteer Week in Grayson County

Family and Community Health Agent Joyce White told the group that volunteers for the Grayson County Extension Office continued to make a difference in the community even through the strangeness and uncertainty of 2020.

She said the office had 337 volunteers who together put in 16,000 volunteer hours which would equate to about $444,000 worth of labor for projects in the community.

"Our volunteers are really important and we just don't stop and say thank you nearly enough," White said.

The extension office certainly isn't the only place where volunteers make a difference in the county.

"We have volunteers throughout Grayson County doing a lot of great things. You've heard about (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers early on," she said. "Without volunteers our food pantries wouldn't have happened all through this (COVID-19 pandemic). We've got United Way volunteers, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and of course the livestock board. There is just a tremendous number of volunteers and without them a lot of things wouldn't happen."

The COVID-19 pandemic meant several CASA volunteers were sworn in via ZOOM hearings.

For example, in 2016 when the group didn't have enough volunteers for the Grayson County Fair Board, the fair went away.

As White mentioned, 4H is not the only local organization that relies upon volunteers. She said she just doesn't have a mechanism to track the volunteer hours put in at other area agencies.

CASA of Grayson County Executive Director James Hamilton said in fiscal year 2020, his organization received 4,370 volunteer hours which equals about $96,140 worth of services. 

CASA advocate Bruce and CASA Program Director Allison Myers attended a regional Foster to Connect event in November of 2020.

But more than that, he said, it equates to a kind of work that an organization can't afford to pay for. He said volunteers are there because they have a passion for the work and who tend to work harder for the children.

In the last 12 months, Habitat of Humanity of Grayson County has received 4,015.3 volunteer hours

Laurie Mealy, executive director of the Grayson County Habitat for Humanity, speaks at Habi-taters Fundraiser benefitting the Habitat for Humanity of Grayson County on Jan. 26, 2019.

. "That is low for us, but it was a pandemic year," Executive Director Laurie Mealy said in a phone call.

While that number is not insignificant, generally the hour count is closer to 6,000 and above for them.

Without volunteers, Mealy said the organization simply would not be able to build homes. They contract out the things that have to be done by licensed providers like plumbers, but everything that can be done by volunteers is to keep the cost per house down. 

"Without them we wouldn't be working on house number 41," she said. 

Jeffie Bowen and Angela Lewis were sworn-in as CASA advocates this month by Judge Jim Fallon