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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Volunteers are always welcome at YMCA

Monday, January 10, 2005

Robbie Edwards, a YMCA volunteer, helps a student with her homework.
SIKESTON - Volunteers are always welcome at the YMCA of Southeast Missouri. "Our whole organization is volunteer led," said Jeff Partridge, executive director of the YMCA.

While Partridge acknowledges the YMCA does have some paid staff people who manage the day-to-day operations, most of their help comes from volunteers.

"Volunteers just do things that are needed around the Y," said Steve Forbes, treasurer and board member who has served since the opening of the YMCA in 1995. "They man the front desk, clean up and lead various classes."

At times, volunteers will see a project they feel needs to be done and organize it, Forbes added. For instance, a trailer sits on the parking lot of the YMCA to collect aluminum cans. This ongoing project was organized by volunteers last year, with all of the proceeds benefiting the organization.

Partridge and Forbes agreed volunteers are much needed when it comes to special events and fund raisers. "These special projects require a lot of manpower," Forbes said.

These events include the annual fund-raiser barbecue day, fish fries, the YMCA Healthy Kids Day and the recent sleigh rides at the outlet mall. Forbes also mentioned YMCA volunteers' involvement in the Partnership With Youth campaign. "This annual campaign is going on right now," he said. (More information about this campaign is available at the YMCA.)

Partridge encourages anyone interested in volunteering at the YMCA to stop by the office and fill out an application. "After volunteers fill out an application, we find out their interests and find something that fits them," he said.

Volunteers range from teenagers to parents who help out with programs their children are in to senior citizens, who run a water exercise program.

One of these youth volunteers, Robbie Edwards, received the Youth of the Year award last year. She has volunteered for the past two years with Karen Hutchcraft, director for the after school program at the local YMCA. Before volunteering, Edwards was involved in other YMCA programs for several years.

"No matter what I asked her to do, she did it and she didn't complain," Hutchcraft said of Edwards. Youth volunteers help younger children with their homework as well as setting up crafts.

Hutchcraft is especially thankful for the volunteers. "It makes my job a lot easier when volunteers are there," she laughed.

Another volunteer, Norma Tatum, has been the water exercise instructor for the past three years. The water class was developed by the Arthritis Foundation for people who have arthritis and other physical problems.

"When the last instructor had to quit, I took her place," Tatum said. Before, she served as a substitute. Tatum's doctor recommended that she take the class to help with her arthritis and she immediately saw and difference.

"I do it because I enjoy it," she said, adding she would be doing the exercises anyway. "It makes me feel good to know that I am helping other people feel the same way."

YMCA volunteers may serve in several ways. For instance, a policy volunteer may serve on the board of directors or a committee. "Board members do everything from helping to set policies as far as how we operate, to evaluating programs, fund raising and advocating for the YMCA," Partridge said.

Program volunteers, on the other hand, work directly with members and program participants. This includes coaching sports, assisting with the after school programs, etc. Volunteers who help in the office, fitness center and other areas of the facility and grounds are support volunteers. Finally, managerial volunteers act as consultants to the YMCA, lending their special skills and talents, such as accounting, architecture and public relations.

Forbes recognizes the value of volunteers to the organization. "You can't get it done without the volunteers," he said. "If you did not have all those people contributing their time for free, the YMCA would not exist."