ARLINGTON-At 82, Charlotte Herring is as dedicated to her work at the Arlington Central Library as she once was to the students to whom she taught high-school English for 30 years.
The difference now is that she doesn’t get a paycheck. As a retiree, Herring is representative of a growing number of volunteers working in hospitals, churches and other public facilities, but she is hardly typical.
For 35 years, Herring has volunteered wherever she saw a need. Compare her dedication to the average three-month commitment that others make to volunteer organizations, and you can see how truly unique she is.
No one had to sell Herring on the value of volunteerism, but a new organization is doing some nudging to get more Dallas/Fort Worth residents on the same altruistic brainwave through its pilot program.
Since last June, the Volunteer Connection has provided that nudge through public service announcements, the Volunteer Centers of Tarrant and Dallas counties, five area Junior Leagues and KXAS-TV (Channel 5). It would be hard for anyone to ignore the bombardment of television announcements that Channel 5 has broadcast during the past year and will continue to offer now that the pilot program has ended.
Louise Appleman, Tarrant County chairman of the Volunteer Connection, says that Dallas/Fort Worth was chosen for the pilot program “because it has a history of neighbors helping neighbors.”
For organizations affected by government cutbacks, it’s difficult to put a dollar value on volunteerism. But Patrick Miller, director of Texas Christian University’s Center for Organizational Research and Evaluation Studies (CORE), says that volunteers contributed nearly $3.5 million in terms of hours worked during a one-year period. Equally significant is the enthusiasm and motivation volunteers bring to non-paying jobs, as well as the morale boost their help gives to paid staff members.
“The volunteers are the backbone of our program,” says Wayne Clark, a naturalist with the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge. “Without docents, we couldn’t afford to offer many programs, such as tours, wild-flower walks and children’s classes.”
Efforts like the Volunteer Connection are becoming increasingly critical. A few years ago, more working women, coupled with declining funds for social services, threatened to make the volunteer an endangered species.
Today, with more men volunteering as well as racial and ethnic minorities, retirees, working women and corporations, Miller says the gap left by changing lifestyles is on its way to being filled. To contact the Volunteer Connection, call 336-1110.