Giving back to the community is a priority for many local families, such as the Groleaus of Dauphin County, who volunteer at The Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association. "The kids love going every week and I enjoy going," said Dawn Groleau, of West Hanover Township. "It makes them feel good to help individuals with disabilities because they have the ability that others don’t."
There’s never been a better time to get involved in giving back to your community. And, there are more opportunities available than ever before. Many nonprofit organizations in the area run on a shoestring budget and welcome volunteer help. No matter what the reason for volunteering, many say it’s a valuable experience.
Pride in helping others
Dawn Groleau, her son Troy, 15, and daughter Emily, 12, first started volunteering at CATRA more than a year ago. "My son needed to do volunteer hours in order to earn his confirmation through the Catholic church," Groleau explained. "It’s a little challenging to find volunteer opportunities for teens under 18."
CATRA is a nonprofit organization located at a farm that provides therapeutic riding lessons to those with disabilities. Owners Ben and Shirley Nolt run the farm along with their multitude of volunteers—there are no paid staff. "Everything that gets done, gets done by volunteers," Ben Nolt said.
Volunteers at the farm help with everything from feeding the horses and cleaning stalls to helping with the lessons or baling hay. "You kind of do whatever is needed," Dawn Groleau said. "Everybody is willing to help everyone. If you are not sure how to do something there’s always someone to ask. I would definitely recommend families volunteer at CATRA."
Troy Groleau completed his mandatory hours of volunteer service over a year ago and along with his mom and sister, still continues to volunteer at CATRA. "They recognize your time is very important and the respect your time. You don’t feel like it’s a chore."
Nolt said they always need volunteers and anyone is welcome at CATRA. "The little ones come with their parents until they are about 13 or 14. Since volunteering is a learned activity, we try to encourage it. There’s always something that everyone can do," he said.
A place to call home
Six years ago Jeff and Carrie Korkie were the proud recipients of a Habitat for Humanity Home in Dover. They needed to contribute 500 sweat equity hours working for Habitat to receive the home and had the time completed before they accepted the keys to their new place.
Today they are the "go to" family for the York Habitat for Humanity and continue to volunteer their time and energy to help the organization. "We are a Habitat family forever," Carrie Korkie said. "We never say no—they did so much for us."
Along with their children, Shawn, 16, and 12-year-old twins Catie and Emily, the Korkies volunteer in a number of ways. "I help a lot with the parties and the picnics and phone calls," she said. "(Catie and Emily) hand out flyers, helping with the events. We made gift bags last year for all the kids at the Christmas party. They help me shop and get involved as much as they can."
Jeff Korkie serves on various boards for Habitat, including the current build for veterans. Shawn, a musician, volunteers his time playing the piano for different events, including the organization’s annual gala. "They have him play at the Christmas parties throughout the evening—that’s a big way that he gets involved. [Music] is his world, so he doesn’t mind," she said.
Debbie Krout-Althoff, executive director of the York Habitat for Humanity, said they can find a job for anyone who wants to volunteer, from children to senior citizens. "There truly is a place for everyone," she said.
Although volunteers at the construction site must be at least 16 years old, there are still many other things that volunteers can do to help. "They can help fill a pantry for a family by collecting non-perishable foods. Youth can build planters or outside boxes or do welcome mats," she said.
"There are a million different ways to get involved with Habitat," Korkie said. If you are thinking of volunteering but don’t know where to begin, Korkie said, "Habitat is a great place to start. You can get the whole family involved."
Teens united in giving back
The United Way of the Capital Region offers the Youth Allocation Panel, made up of students in ninth through twelfth grades in Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties.
Students spend the year learning the basic principles of fundraising, setting goals, evaluating proposals, the grant process, and decision-making, explained Beth Zangle, eighth grade instructional support aide and VolunTeen coordinator for Camp Hill High School. "They are responsible for their own fundraising and then they put their money together. These children from different high schools then have to work together, just like a board would, and make Roberts Rules decisions as to who they think deserves the money. It puts them in a grown-up position very quickly," Zangle said.
YAP advisor Heidi Newhaus said "the kids learn a lot from it. There’s nothing mock about it. They are allocating to real programs in the community." In addition, panel members also elect a representative to serve on the UWCR board of directors and campaign cabinet.
Seventeen-year-old Liz Clarke, a senior at Camp Hill High School, said if teens have a chance they should join the panel. "I’m really glad I have done it because it’s given me a greater appreciation for what people do and the work they put in to help the community. Being a part of it makes you more aware of the issues. It also definitely helps you to kind of get an idea of what you can do yourself," Clarke said.
Marina Shannon is a freelance writer and married mom of two energetic boys in Waynesboro.
For more information on how you can
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