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Making a difference

We all know the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Nowhere is this ideal more evident than in the service local volunteers provide to our community.
In a time when financial budgets for service organizations are being cut, volunteers can make the difference. Many social service agencies would be hard-pressed to provide the services we have come to expect without the help of volunteers.
U.S. Sens. Evan Bayh and John McCain, last November, proposed a Call To Service Act which would expand service opportunities throughout the United States. They want to see more Americans volunteer some of their time and effort to make our country safer and stronger.
If passed, this act will expand AmeriCorps and senior service opportunities, require colleges and universities to focus more of their federal work-study funds on community service projects, and establish a new military enlistment track that would offer greater flexibility for citizens wanting to serve in the military.
President Bush said he will work with the senators to have this legislation passed.
In Harrison County, the opportunity to volunteer is great. There are many organizations in need of volunteer help, from fire departments to Headstart. Volunteers who give their time and talents are the backbone of many of the county’s service organizations.
Karen Cook manages the Buffalo Trace Service Center of the American Red Cross in Georgetown. She said her center depends heavily on the efforts of more than 150 volunteers there.
“We specialize in disaster relief and train teams of volunteers to go out to assist communities in the event of tornadoes, floods, forest fires and other disasters,” Cook said. “We serve Harrison, Floyd and Crawford counties from here but could never do that without the people who are willing to give of their time and efforts to serve others.
“We have a good corps of volunteers from all over the area and have picked up a lot since 9-11. When someone volunteers, we evaluate their talents and then cross-train them in several areas so that we can develop disaster relief teams to respond to harmful situations.
“Volunteers come from all walks of life, and we find that once we train a volunteer, they usually stay with us for a fairly long period of time,” said Cook. “Our volunteers run our office, teach first-aid and CPR, and do a host of other jobs for us.”
Another area where volunteers are important is bloodmobiles.
“We couldn’t run a bloodmobile without volunteers,” Cook said. “The people who actually take the blood are paid, but everyone else is volunteer. All the people who sign you in and give you snacks are volunteers,” said Cook.
“The mission of the Red Cross is to prevent, prepare and respond to disaster emergencies,” Cook said.
“In Harrison County, there are 10 volunteer fire departments, and every one of them has openings for a few more volunteers,” said Tim Shewmaker, chief of the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. in Corydon. “None of the fire departments in the county are full.”
Shewmaker’s department has 21 firefighters, and there are openings for five more. It costs the county more than $1,300 to provide each firefighter with the proper protective equipment.
“Many people check into volunteering with the fire department, but when they discover the commitment in time and effort, they drop out,” Shewmaker said.
“The state mandates a 24-hour basic training course for new volunteer firefighters, and then there is a lot of time involved in making runs and fighting fires. We are always on call. Last year we made about 160 to 170 runs of all kinds. I’ve missed a lot of dinners and family events over the years.
“We are all volunteers in this department. None of us are paid,” said Shewmaker. “I’ve been here 21 years, and we have four guys who have been here 20-plus years. We have three rookies; the rest fit in between.”
“We could use some more volunteer teacher’s aides,” said Joy Combs, lead teacher and center supervisor for Harrison County Headstart, a pre-school for low-income families. “We have five regular volunteers now, and sometimes parents will volunteer, but we have 54 children here everyday in the three half-day classes that we offer.”
Combs said volunteers can work as teacher’s aides or help out by reading to the children at the school in Corydon.
“All of our regular volunteers are required to have a physical, a criminal background check and a Mantoux TB test, at the center’s expense,” Combs said. Regular volunteers work one day a week or about eight hours a month. “We give volunteers training before starting so they will know our routine and what to do with the children.
“Our requirements for a volunteer is that they love children and have a lot of patience.”
In Corydon, the Big Brothers-Big Sisters are actively providing adult mentors for children from single parent homes. Michelle Dayvault, volunteer recruitment and resource coordinator, working out of the Gerdon Youth Center, said, “We are constantly looking for adults who will be a Big Brother or Big Sister for a child. We have plenty of children who could benefit from having another adult in their life.
“Once we match an adult with a child, the volunteer, the child and the parent determine the amount of involvement they will have. The volunteer can meet with the child once a month or more if they want to,” said Dayvault.
“Right now we have 16 matches, with two volunteers waiting to finish the process in order to be matched with a child. We also have a program in the North Harrison school district where high school juniors and seniors are paired with elementary students as role models,” said Dayvault. “The high school students meet with the elementary-age children during free periods to take walks, play board games or do whatever they like.
“We put our volunteer Big Brothers and Big Sisters through an intensive screening process, which includes criminal background checks in Indiana and Kentucky, three letters of reference, and we contact employers to check character,” Dayvault said. “We want to make sure the children will be safe with the person we match them with. It takes three to six weeks for a volunteer to be approved.”
Dayvault said the volunteers are given training so that they will know what is normal for the various age groups of children they will help with. Children in the program range from seven to 16 years old. A case manager is assigned monitors the match as an added precaution.
“The average age of our volunteers is about 35, and we find that more women volunteer than men,” Dayvault said. “We do have a program to entice more men to volunteer called ‘Sports Buddies.’ In this program an adult volunteer interested in sports can take a child to a sporting event.”
Volunteer opportunities exist with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. for people who wish to serve as special deputies, reserve officers and as part of the Horse Patrol.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department said special deputies are sworn in so they can wear a uniform and assist with projects such as fingerprinting children and clerical work in the office. Reserve officers help out in the jail.
The Harrison County Horse Patrol is a mounted search and rescue team made up of volunteers who also appear in parades and assist police with parking and crowd control at the Harrison County Fair, Lanesville’s Heritage Weekend, and the Harrison County REMC annual meeting.
According to horse patrol Commander James Travis of Corydon, the patrol is mainly a search and rescue team that was established in the 80’s to assist police.
“We have done it all. We’ve chased buffalo, rounded up cows and helped find lost persons,” said Travi. He’s been in the patrol for six years and is in his second year as commander.
“The sheriff will call all of us when there is an emergency, and those of us who can will respond.
“We have 22 volunteer members in the patrol who provide their own horse, trailer, insurance and uniforms for both rider and horse,” said Travis. “Our patrol has members from all walks of life. We have members in their 60’s and 70’s, and people who are pilots, nurses and chiropractors.
“Each person is put through an application process and screened very closely. We make a home visit to ensure that the person has the proper equipment, and we do a background check for prior felonies,” said Travis. “Anyone who can pass the application process and has the proper equipment can join our patrol. We can always use more help.
“Our horse patrol members are sworn in by Harrison Circuit Judge (Tad) Whitis and are under the sherriff’s department.”
Travis said the volunteers can be as active in the patrol as they wish and that the team tries to make weekly rides in the Harrison-Crawford State Forest.