The gift of giving time

MARQUETTE — According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the United States. Northern Michigan University football player Aaron Harris is involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

“I am mostly excited about just being there for someone,” Harris said. “I just want to be that type of person.”

Harris feels the program will be beneficial for his little and himself. Other community programs allow volunteers to create meaningful relationships, but with a different age group.

UP Home Health and Hospice volunteer Jane Carew meets once a week with Irene Fogaroli.

“I like spending time with them it’s nice,” Carew said. “Allowing their family to go out and do what they need to do, and not worry about how their family member is, and being able to trust the person that they’re with.”

The two ladies are 80 years apart and have their own unique way of communicating.

“We get along just through touch,” Jane said. “We can kind of understand each other that way, without having to speak Italian. She knows what I’m thinking, and I know what she’s kind of thinking.”

Irene’s native language is Italian, but she knows just enough English to tell Jane the important things.

“I like you,” said Irene Fogaroli.

Volunteering can give you a new life friend but for some organizations volunteers are necessary to make everyday basic living possible.

“Without our volunteers we would crumble, we rely on our volunteers a lot.”

At the Harbor House volunteers are needed to help cook, clean, tutor children, as well as other jobs that require training.

“We have a sexual assault response team, and a domestic violence assault team,” Program Director Alisha Young said. “They respond to the local ER, or the local police department, whenever there has been a domestic assault to advocate for that victim. We’re with them from the very time we are called through their entire journey.”

Lastly one local program is run and staffed by 90 to 100 volunteers and is one hundred percent community funded. The Room at the Inn and The Warming Center provide food and a roof for the homeless community.

“Volunteering for Room at the inn is a unique experience,” Douglas Russel said. “Our guests come to us really at very low point in their lives. Many of them are struggling with different issues whether it’s a mental illness or an addiction, they certainly are at a very tough spot, but that doesn’t matter to us. Our whole point is we have an opportunity to serve them to help them at a very difficult time for them.”

It takes 400 hours to operate both buildings each week.

“You know gifts come in all shapes and sizes, we tend to attach a dollar figure to it, saying that well I want to get somebody a big gift this year, or something small,” Russel said. “But the gift of your time is truly priceless, because there is no greater gift than giving up yourself and whether it be for two hours or four hours.”