Funding dip changes volunteer program

By ALEXANDRA SONDEEN
Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — A program that encouraged volunteerism in the county has been forced to make some big changes because of a lack of funding.

Stradtner

Volunteer Dubois County, also known as the Dubois County Volunteer Center, was a Tri-Cap initiative that connected area nonprofit groups and other organizations that use volunteers with local residents seeking service opportunities. Tri-Cap began the program early this year using federal stimulus funds that expired at the end of September.

“We had to find other funding, basically relying on community donations until we could find more sustainable, long-term funding options,” Paige Stradtner, volunteer coordinator with Tri-Cap, said.

A program that encouraged volunteerism in the county has been forced to make some big changes because of a lack of funding.

But because money ran out before donations could be accumulated, the program has been discontinued through Tri-Cap.

“It’s unfortunate that the funding wasn’t found to keep it going,” Debbie Schmitt, family development services director at Tri-Cap, said. “What (Paige) has done so far has been great. The program got a very good start.”

Volunteer Dubois County, with the help of the Huntingburg Foundation, published and distributed the Volunteer Opportunities Guide, a booklet listing organizations and their volunteer needs, in August. About 15 of the 50-plus organizations listed in the guide reported recruitment of one to three new volunteers and many more had inquiries about volunteering, according to Stradtner.

Though she will be out of a job at the end of this week as her position also had been funded through stimulus money, Stradtner pledged to keep the program going as much as possible by becoming a volunteer herself. In her spare time, she will continue to run the center and work to create a website.

“I believe in the program,” she said. “I want to see it continue. I will still continue referring volunteers and working on a website, but it’s going to be sort of limited because I’ll be doing this on my own time.”

The website will include an updated database of volunteer opportunities, a calendar of events and a wish list for donations. What Stradtner calls the “virtual volunteer center” will be the first step in getting a more solid program established.

“It will get people used to the idea of what a volunteer center will do so that we can build up from there,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to start out small.”

 The center will no longer have a physical location or phone number to call, but Stradtner has established a new e-mail address, volunteerduboiscounty@hotmail.com, as a means for organizations and individuals to contact the center. She said she also will continue creating monthly newsletters as much as she is able.

More information about the website will unfold over the next several months, Stradtner said.

If stable funding is secured, Tri-Cap will still be interested in supporting the program down the road.

“It’s a great thing to have in the community,” Schmitt said. “We have a lot of people that want to give back. There are a lot of people in the community that want to volunteer but don’t know where to look.”

Contact Alexandra Sondeen at asondeen@dcherald.com

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