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Volunteers are needed for the Christmas season in Sikeston

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

SIKESTON -- Anyone who's relishing the holiday spirit this year -- and has some extra time -- can put that anti-Scrooge attitude to use by volunteering to help others.

Angie Branam, activity director at Sells Rest Home in Sikeston, said the facility, for one, welcomes volunteers.

"From spending time with some of the residents by reading with them or reading them their mail to coming to an activity and talking with them, volunteers are always needed," Branam said. "And it doesn't have to be a difficult job."

John Jackovic, administrator of the Sikeston Convalescent Center, agreed residents love to receive visits from others. "We get a ton of schools and kids who come out during the holidays," Jackovic noted. "Basically they sing to the residents and some volunteers provide activities and things."

Volunteering also acts as a good service project for groups and gives the volunteers a sense of responsibility to the community, Jackovic said.

Branam worries volunteers are a dying breed because now people are busier than they used to be.

"Several years ago we were overrun with volunteers. All of our volunteers were older ladies that were retired and when those were all gone, nobody wanted to volunteer anymore," Branam recalled.

Although Sells Rest Home still has one or two volunteers who come for special events, and the facility partners with the Visiting Nurse Association's Senior Companion program, more volunteers are still needed, and residents really appreciate it, Branam said.

"This is their home and so they appreciate anybody coming in to help and help them do things," Branam said about residents. "It's not the same faces they see every day. It's a different face and a new smile, and it brightens their day when they come in."

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the organization, church or business in advance because sometimes a screening process is required before a person can volunteer, Branam advised.

But nursing homes aren't the only places to spread cheer.

Since the day after Thanksgiving and through Christmas, bell ringers with the New Madrid County Salvation Army can be found on Fridays and Saturdays at both entrances of the Sikeston Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Over 100 volunteers from community organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, local churches and school groups donate their time to help out those in need each Christmas.

"We recruit a lot of high school students from New Madrid and Portageville and some adults help," said Bob Pulliam, board member for the New Madrid County Salvation Army, adding bell ringers aren't currently needed.

And Amanda Lincoln said volunteering at the Red Cross would make a great New Year's resolution.

"We don't really need volunteers for short-term, but we do for the long-term," said Lincoln, development specialist for the Southeast Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross. Many volunteers are used and needed for disaster services, Junior Red Cross and the Armed Forces and Emergency Service Program, Lincoln said.

Julie Aycock, income specialist for the American Cancer Society in Sikeston, said the organization could definitely use volunteers to help mail and put together packets for the upcoming Relays For Life.

"We have some people who volunteer on regular basis, but most of the people during the holidays are college students coming home for their break," Aycock said, adding a lot of people who volunteer at ACS have been affected by cancer in one way or another.

Aycock said the holidays generally bring out the good in people, prompting more to come out and volunteer this time of year.

She reasoned: "Now is more of a time of giving, and people think about it this time of year."