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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs at the military level, including information for all branches of the armed services.

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~ April 2004 ~ Topics

Volunteer Activities While Waiting for Paid Employment

Did you know that most military spouses are employed outside the home? Department of Defense figures indicate that over 65% of all military spouses work. Many more would like to work, if only they could find appropriate Painter Imageemployment opportunities. Although Department of Defense directives assure that a spouse’s decision to pursue a career cannot affect the partner’s military career – i.e. a spouse’s employment cannot be taken into consideration in rating the partner’s performance or determining an assignment – there is no assurance that spouse can find a job with each of his/her partner’s military-related moves.

Military spouses have been called "a workforce in waiting." The employment or unemployment status of those spouses has a great impact on recruitment and retention in all the services. Consequently, the Department of Defense has backed an array of spouse employment initiatives, from their family center information and referral programs, to community and corporate placement partnerships. Still, as well educated as those spouses tend to be, they typically have to "start over" with each PCS (permanent change of station). The career fields they’ve chosen are far more varied than those of their predecessors 20-30 years ago, when the most transportable careers for spouses were in teaching, nursing and social sciences. Spouses today are lawyers, doctors, pilots, physicists – as well as teachers, nurses and social workers.

All of this brings us back to volunteering – many of our spouses choose to volunteer while waiting to find a job at their new location. Their desire to find a volunteer experience that will translate to good resume material means Nurse Imagelooking at traditional as well as non-traditional volunteer opportunities. A nurse, doctor, or social worker would make an excellent choice for a volunteer program at Parents without Partners, the Alzheimer’s Association, convalescent or health center, a shelter for abused spouses and children, the local Department of Health office, Meals on Wheels, the victim/witness advocacy office. An athletic coach or physical education instructor could teach fitness classes for disabled children at the YMCA, coach Special Olympics, volunteer at the local youth center, or act as a league governor for Pee Wee soccer. A teacher or school administrator could put his/her expertise to excellent use as a literacy tutor, docent at a children’s museum or discovery center, Ronald McDonald House activities volunteer or doing education promotion for the school system. A senior citizens’ center or volunteer tax preparation center could use the help of a CPA or bookkeeper, an adopt-a-road program could be helped by a landscape architect, an executive assistant could help an organization needing meeting management, and a graphic artist could design posters for your program or special event.

If you are a helping organization with access to a military installation in your area, take maximum advantage of the education and experience that military spouses have to offer. Military spouses are a well-kept secret, but may be the perfect answer to a volunteer program’s recruitment challenges.

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Inexpensive Table Decorations

If you are a volunteer coordinator, you are more than likely already in the serious planning stages for recognition activities for National Volunteer Week (April 18-24, 2004). Part of that planning inevitably will mean coming up with inexpensive table decorations for some event. Though these ideas may be too late for this year’s celebration, you might find them useful for next year’s.

One of my favorite themes, particularly for recognizing volunteers, centers on a line from a poem -- "I journeyed to the rainbow’s end and found not gold but you my friend." Using small, inexpensive baskets, I tied a row of rainbow-colored ribbons along the handle and then put gold chocolate "coins" (available at most party supply stores) and a personalized card in the basket. The card had handprints done by children from our base child care center – in a rainbow of finger paint colors – and said a simple thank you. If you’re lucky enough to have a florist who will provide flowers or plants at low to no cost, add one that symbolizes friendship, such as chrysanthemum, geranium, or ivy.

One word themes can say thanks quite succinctly – "Impact" might bring to mind several images. Purchase inexpensive hammers and cans of gold spray paint at your local home improvement center – spray the hammers, tie raffia around the handles and place them on the table beside a large tent-card with the word "Impact" in gold letters. Easy, but with impact!

Piggy Bank ImageYou are on a small-to-nothing budget and looking for a special way to honor a single volunteer at a small luncheon, perhaps to celebrate long service or a special achievement. This picnic theme is obviously best used in warm weather. Provide each invitee with a plastic sand pail with the printed invitation in it. Explain in the invitation that they are to decorate the bucket using fabric, paint, beads, whatever they’d like to use. Also ask them to put a lunch for one person in the pail, not including beverage or dessert. (When I’m asked, I encourage them to make the lunch as gourmet as they’re willing or able to.) When they arrive for the luncheon, put a number in each pail – put a second set of corresponding numbers in a basket. After every one arrives, ask each person draw a number. They get to eat the lunch from the corresponding-numbered pail and keep the pail. All you have to do is provide table settings, beverage and dessert – and the lunch for your guest of honor. It’s always fun to eat someone else’s cooking, and every one will enjoy seeing all the different decorating abilities and food themes.Cornicopia Image

One of the simplest winter decorating themes involves reverting back to cutting snowflakes out of white paper. There is no cheaper way to decorate a table than with a paper project. Fold a large (40”) square of white paper (you can buy rolls of butcher block paper in craft stores) in half diagonally three times. Fold the short folder side to the long side and trim any excess at the bottom. Either draw designs on the paper and cut them out or cut just as you did paper snowflakes as a kid. Unfold and you have a detailed table covering that has another advantage – it makes clean up easy. Add cotton batting and inexpensive round Styrofoam white “snow”balls, and you have a great winter-themed table.

Whether you’re planning a small gathering or an annual volunteer banquet, creating a theme promotes enthusiasm and makes it easier to design invitations, programs, and table decorations. Look to the Internet for hundreds of ideas. Most importantly, it will spark your own creativity.

Judy Morrow is an analyst and writer, employed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. She has more than 25 years of volunteer experience and 5 years experience as Installation Volunteer Coordinator and Relocation Assistance Manager. She also does consulting, writing and workshop presentations. To contact Judy, email her at: Judy.Morrow@edwards.af.mil.

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