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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~ June 2007 ~ Topics

National Parks Volunteering
Working with Volunteers “Aging in Place”
Youth Volunteers

Dear Connie:

My husband and I are interested in volunteering to work in a National Park. Please give me information on how to begin. Thanks!


Dear JF:

The National Park Service has an excellent volunteer program called Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP). In Fiscal Year 2005, 137,000 volunteers donated 5.2 million hours to our national parks at a value of $91.2 million. VIPs come from all over the world to help preserve and protect America's natural and cultural heritage for the enjoyment of this and future generations. Volunteers of all ages give their time and expertise to help achieve the National Park Service mission.

The National Park Service Volunteers-In-Parks Program was authorized by Public Law 91-357, enacted in 1970. The primary purpose of the VIP program is to provide a vehicle through which the National Park Service can accept and utilize voluntary help and services from the public. The major objective of the program is to utilize this voluntary help in such a way that is mutually beneficial to the National Park Service and the volunteer. Volunteers are accepted from the public without regard to race, creed, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability.

Just go to the following link and search volunteer opportunities by state or specific park:


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Dear Connie:

I am a Volunteer Coordinator for a large hospice. I have a solid base of volunteers mainly because my office is based in a "Senior Community." In the last 5 years I have witnessed many of our volunteers "aging in place." While they certainly have "Hospice Hearts" it has become more of a challenge to find opportunities to fit their abilities. I have now been asked to do a research project on "Senior Volunteers Aging in Place." I am looking for any journal articles or other resources that might assist in this project.


Dear LL:

There are many good resources on volunteers aging in place. Here are some of my favorites:

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Dear Connie:

Could you please tell me if there are any reference stories or articles about volunteers under the age of 15? We have several students who would like to volunteer but I need some reference stories for my board. Thank you for your help. I find your column invaluable!

Volunteer Program Manager

Dear VPM:

As for youth volunteers, first you have to check your state's child labor laws to find out minimum age, number of hours children can volunteer, etc. Then you have to address risk management issues, such as having an adult working with children of a certain age, doing background checks on those adults, injury insurance issues, permission of the volunteer's parents, etc. In my experience, most organizations prefer not to engage children under 15 years of age in volunteer opportunities.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before engaging young people as volunteers:

  • What safeguards do we have in place already to protect all participants in our programs?
  • How do we screen volunteers at our organization and anyone who will be working with youth?
  • How do we supervise youth volunteers, particularly in activities that will bring them in contact with adults?
  • Do our staff members understand the unique (and risk relevant) emotional characteristics and development issues of youth?
  • Do our staff members have experience working with youth in face-to-face service situations?

Finally, Susan Ellis has some excellent resources on her website at Energize, Inc. http://www.energizeinc.com. Just click on "Resource Library" and under "Types of Volunteers" click on "Children and Youth." You'll find studies, books to purchase, and articles on the subject.

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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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