How to Volunteer


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The United States has a long history of volunteerism—a history that has gotten stronger since the terrorist attacks of September 11. People of all ages and with all types of skills volunteer—and, with the President´s emphasis on volunteerism, the current trend can be expected to continue.

What is a volunteer? A volunteer is an individual who, beyond the confines of paid employment and normal responsibilities, contributes time and service to assist in the accomplishment of a mission. (American Red Cross)

People volunteer for a number of reasons, including wanting to:

  • Give back.
  • Share their abilities.
  • Develop new skills.
  • See a mission accomplished.
  • Network with people.

The reasons people volunteer are as broad as the type of people who volunteer.

Types of Volunteers

Volunteers can be classified into four categories:

1. Professional. These are volunteers who are licensed or have a specialized skill. Professional volunteers include medical service providers such as physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians; mental health professionals; lawyers; building contractors and inspectors; computer technicians; clergy; accountants, etc. These people may volunteer individually or as a group.

2. Unskilled. These volunteers do not already have the skills that could be useful to emergency management programs, but they do offer their time and can be trained.

3. Spontaneous. These are people who volunteer in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or an emergency. They may be skilled or unskilled and may be from the affected area or from outside the area. Channeling spontaneous volunteers—especially if they present in large numbers as they did in New York City following September 11—presents special management challenges.

4. Affiliated. These volunteers are attached to a recognized voluntary agency or service club that has trained them for disaster response and has a mechanism in place to address their use in an emergency

Volunteers offer much more to emergency management than free labor. In fact, the benefits of involving volunteers are many. Volunteers:

  • Provide services more cost effectively.
  • Provide access to a broader range of expertise and experience.
  • Increase paid staff member´s effectiveness by enabling them to focus their efforts where they are most needed or by providing additional services.
  • Provide resources for accomplishing tasks or upgrading what would otherwise be put on the back burner while immediate needs demand attention.
  • Enable the agency to launch programs in areas in which paid staff lacks expertise.
  • Act as liaisons with the community to gain support for programs.
  • Provide a direct line to private resources in the community.
  • Facilitate networking.
  • Increase public awareness and program visibility.

So what does it mean for you to volunteer? In a nutshell, it means that you can become important to your community Americans want to volunteer. When you volunteer, you will be given a job that matches your skills and abilities that will be needed or can be used during an emergency.

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Sweetwater - Nolan Country Health Department - 301 East 12th St. - Sweetwater, Texas 79556
Phone: (325) 235-5463 - Email: