Event matches volunteers to agencies

Feb. 15, 2013 @ 11:46 PM

Pigeon Forge Care and Rehabilitation Center is a nursing facility, but volunteers there may not need specialized skills in elder care.

"They can help residents make a garden," said the center's Janna Preston. "We have volunteers who like to play music."

About 80 volunteers work at the facility. "They can adopt a grandparent," added Glenda Trentham, Preston's colleague. "They can just spend time with folks."

On Wednesday, Preston and Trentham represented the center at the annual volunteer drive hosted by Sevier County's Promise, a nonprofit group that works on behalf of local youth. At the drive, which took place in the Sevierville Community Center gym, representatives of about 30 agencies and organizations met with potential volunteers.

Among the groups represented were Boys & Girls Club, Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries, the Sevier County Fire Department, Douglas Cooperative and Helen Ross McNabb.

Representatives sat at tables arranged in rows, and would-be volunteers walked among them. Some nonprofits gave out candy, tote bags and other swag.

"We always get a good turnout," said Marissa Snead, volunteer coordinator with the King Family Library, of the drive. The library has participated in the past four drives.

The library seeks adult and teen volunteers. "Our adults cover books, do shelving," said Snead. "They help with programs like the ones for teens and children." Teen volunteers also help with teen programs, and they tutor younger children.

"We are always looking for volunteers," noted Lisa Nicholson of Caris Healthcare, a hospice organization. "With hospice, there are several different opportunities. They can visit with patients. They can do administrative work." Some hospice volunteers do crafts, and some cook, Nicholson said.

Also representing a hospice-care group was Rita Humphreys, volunteer coordinator at Amedisys. "I'm very impressed by the passion," Humphreys said of volunteers.

Laura Howard, executive director of the environmental group Keep Sevier Beautiful, said that in addition to connecting volunteers with nonprofits, the drive lets agencies network with each other. "That's an advantage," she said.

Enlisting volunteers helps her group expand existing programs and create new ones, Howard said.

After potential volunteers learned about groups, they filled out forms indicating their first, second and third choices. They also provided detailed contact information, so that Sevier County's Promise could conduct background checks.

One visitor, John Sherman of Kodak, said he had been retired for 20 years. "I saw the opportunity," he said of the drive, "and I figured it was time for me to get with it."

In the past, Sherman has volunteered in youth sports activities. "I'd like to work with a medical facility if I could," he said.

At 11:30 Wednesday morning, only a few visitors were in the gym. "We don't have as many people as we wanted," said Kim Loveday of Sevier County's Promise. Still, she noted, "More agencies are here this year."

One organization represented at the drive is not a nonprofit: Tennessee State Bank. Its employees were there on behalf of TSB One, the bank's effort to coordinate volunteers.

"What these people are doing is amazing," said community banking officer Scott Henry, gesturing at the nonprofits and volunteers around him. "They are literally changing people's lives in our community."