Opinion Columns & Blogs

July 11, 2010

Vasché: How can you love Modesto? Let me count some of the ways

Do you love Modesto? If so, how can you show it in a practical, tangible, visible way?

Since posing those questions a week ago, I've heard lots of stories about people who are joyfully and freely giving of themselves to help others.

But I've heard of more than a handful of excuses.

I don't have time. I have a job. I'm too busy already. My kids need me. I'm too young. I'm too old. I don't know what I could do. Maybe when the kids leave home. I'm not in good health. For sure when I retire. I'm out of work and need to find a job. And on and on and on.

Nonsense, I say.

So does Francine DiCiano, although she puts it in kinder, gentler words. And DiCiano should know; she's the president and CEO of United Way Stanislaus, which deals with dozens of nonprofit agencies, almost all of which rely heavily on volunteers.

"With a troubled economy we are seeing individuals who are unemployed may no longer be able to volunteer. However, some unemployed individuals take this opportunity to maintain, improve or learn new skills through volunteering," DiCiano says. "Also, we are seeing people who are currently employed express their gratitude by volunteering to help others."

And, pardon the cliché, when it comes to volunteering, there's something for everyone.

DiCiano breaks the volunteer needs of local nonprofits into three categories:

Basic operations, such as receptionists, clerical, maintenance, etc.

Client services, such as transporting seniors, child care, tutoring, serving meals, providing clothing for needy families.

Skilled/expert services, such as fund-raising, long-term planning, advisory board, etc.

The opportunities at United Way member agencies -- as well as schools, churches and community service groups -- range from one-shot to short-term to occasional to long-term.

And, according to DiCiano and others, the variety of ways to help are limitless.

Some examples:

You can help low-income families build their dream home though Habitat for Humanity. Or provide a "foster home" for tiny kittens and puppies awaiting adoption through Stanislaus County Animal Services.

You can clean up neighborhoods in the airport area and Empire through Advancing Vibrant Communities. Or help people learn to read through the Stanislaus Literacy Center.

You can care for injured or orphaned animals at the Stanislaus Wildlife Center. Or visit the elderly through Catholic Charities, the Area Agency on Aging or area convalescent and senior centers. Or serve as a helper at the Stanislaus County Free Library.

You can provide child care or mentor new moms enrolled in classes at the Parent Resource Center. Or staff event booths or assist with CPR or first aid classes offered by the American Red Cross.

You can work in classrooms and programs at cash-strapped schools. Or offer refreshments and visit with donors at Delta Blood Bank. Or deliver flowers and gifts, visit patients and do other volunteer services at most hospitals.

You can provide, serve or deliver meals through the Modesto Gospel Mission, Salvation Army and United Samaritans Foundation. Or help fill grocery orders for needy families at Inter-Faith Ministries.

You can drive people to medical appointments through the American Cancer Society or other agencies. Or help the Modesto Police Department make this a safer place to live.

You can pick up and deliver clothing, appliances, furniture and other donated items for a number of nonprofits. Or work in one of the growing number of charity-run thrift stores.

Do you love Modesto? Or, Turlock, Oakdale, Ceres, Patterson or wherever you live?

If so, find a practical, tangible, visible way to show it -- start by contacting a nonprofit, church or agency of your choice, or get in touch with the United Way's Volunteer Center at 524-1307.

Vasché can contacted at 578-2356 or at mvasche@modbee.com.

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