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Fair designed to match volunteers with vacancies

August 16, 2018

Snapshot of the Opportunity Santa Fe Volunteer Fair on August 18

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican

By: Olivia Harlow

August 16, 2018

Searching for a place to volunteer — much like hunting for a job — is about finding the perfect fit.

The second annual Opportunity Santa Fe Volunteer Fair — an AmeriCorps VISTA event held in collaboration with Santa Fe Public Schools — on Saturday will feature 31 organizations hoping to connect with potential volunteers.

Whether someone hopes to give time to educating youth, advocating for the environment or serving families with newly adopted children, organizers say there are countless ways to match skills and passions to a cause.

“Too many times we hear the need for volunteers from our local nonprofit organizations and vice versa from community members looking for the right opportunity to give back,” Molly Timmins, an AmeriCorps VISTA leader, wrote in an email.

This year’s fair includes four organizations not present in 2017. Among them is the Santa Fe Independent Youth Basketball Program, which coaches kids in grades 3-6 in cheerleading and basketball, giving elementary schools without teams the chance to compete.

“With school starting back up, we don’t want them to get behind. … I want the kids in Santa Fe to have the opportunity to play sports,” said Andel Trujillo, who heads the group’s volunteerism arm.

Sharon Guerrero, volunteer coordinator at Adelante, said that her group has hundreds of volunteers to assist serving homeless families in Santa Fe, but it’s not enough.

“We absolutely need volunteers. It’s one of our primary goals because we have a very small staff,” she said, adding that the program — a sector of SFPS — serves about 800 individuals and “that number is growing.”

This week, Los Alamos National Lab donated 150 backpacks full of school supplies to Adelante, Guerrero said. While grateful, Adelante still needs a “core group” to assist with managing warehouse storage and food pantries.

Organizers say anyone can be a volunteer.

When Trujillo first got involved in the basketball program, she said, it wasn’t because she had any background in the sport. Instead, she simply saw a gap to fill.

“I’m just a warm body. I’m there to support [the kids] and encourage them,” she said.

Guerrero said she understands many people work full-time jobs and are unable to volunteer during Adelante’s schedule, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but “you do what you can.”

People are encouraged to participate in Adelante’s weekly food distribution; help out at the organization’s community garden; tutor children; or organize drives for food, winter gear and school supplies.

“I think people want to help — that’s one of the things that helps them. The families are needy, but the volunteers get just as much out of it,” Guerrero said…

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Olivia Harlow is digital enterprise producer for Santa Fe New Mexican