iParticipate Part 1
The number of Americans who volunteer regularly has not increased in 40 years and even though there are many volunteers here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, there's still organizations that are desperate for the extra help.
In a three part special report, we'll visit local groups that are active in the community and always looking for more volunteers.
The first group, the Key Club at Parkersburg South High School is encouraging students to give back.
We caught up with the students while they were putting together shoe boxes filled with gifts to send to less fortunate kids in Africa.
These students work hard all year long, serving their community and even people they've never met.
"It's going to kids that don't have gifts for Christmas and that don't have the fortune that I do, to have a family to be there for them to receive gifts and have fun and be a kid," says Eunji Choe, student.
The Key Club at Parkersburg South High School has a hand in all kinds of volunteer work, from holding canned food drives, to helping with the Special Olympics.
"I don't think there is any better organization to be a part of, I truly don't, because if you can instill the volunteering at an early age, then they'll be lifelong volunteers. They're learning now to give back and to be appreciative of what they have and I don't think you can do anything better than that," says Stassa Phillips, Key Club Advisor.
Stassa Phillips, Advisor of the Key Club and an avid volunteer herself and thinks it's important for students to give back, but they're also getting something in return.
"When you were little you couldn't really do anything, but now that I'm older, I can give back to the kids that are younger," says Dylan Smith, Key Club Member.
"I have a lot of things that I'm blessed to have and I just think that volunteering is a really good way to give back," says Lauren Proffit, Key Club Member.
Whatever the reason is, they're out there doing it, willing to help in any situation.
"Taste of Parkersburg called and needed help cleaning up, so were there from 11 till 1 in the morning cleaning up. So, anytime someone needs help we want to be there to help," says Phillips.
And there's not one definition of helping, It comes in many different forms.
"Even if you can't find something to volunteer for, even just encouraging someone or helping others when they're having a hard time, that to me is volunteering, even if it's not a project like the one we're doing because you're still helping others and that's the main reason for volunteering," says Emily Saunders, Member of Key Club.
However you decide to help, just know the need is always there.
"You have to give back, You have to realize how lucky you are to be where you are and to have what you have and that you need to give back as part of the system, because there are so many people that aren't as lucky as these kids are," says Phillips.
iParticipate Part 2
We decided to send our Fox Promotions Manager, Launa Somerville, to an after school program at McKinley Elementary School, in Parkersburg, to try her hand at volunteering.
Playing outside, making friends and having fun at school.
Those are just three things that are important to any kid.
"Doing puzzles, playing with Legos," says one of the many kids who is a member of Children's Home Society:
"Spider Man and Batman, playing with cars".
"We get to play outside," says Lydia, Member of Children's Home Society.
Playing and laughing keeps these kids busy while their parent or guardian finishes up at work.
The Children's Home Society's after school program is based on your income, for Kindergarten through Fifth grade students at McKinley school in Parkersburg.
Director Lisa Weaver says they're always looking for helpers..
"We like to give the kids as much one on one attention as we can, so the more people available the better. They need all the help they can get. Sometimes we have 20 or more children here, so volunteers are much appreciated," says Lisa Weaver, Director of Children's Home Society After School Program.
"What's your favorite color? Purple," says Lydia.
And if you can't find the time, a simple donation could make a difference.
"We get a lot of stuffed animals, matchbox cars, sometimes it's just the parents that know there's a need, so they'll bring in different things for us," says Weaver.
Weaver says when you make a difference in someone else's life, it ends up affecting yours as well.
"We get a lot of people who are looking for something missing in their life and they don't quite know what it is and so, being around kids, gives you a lot more happiness in your life," says Weaver.
And it makes the kids happy too.
"My favorite part is probably the kids, friends. You make lots of friends? Yeah," says Ryan, Member of Children's Home Society.
For most of these boys and girls, they're only waiting for their parents to pick them up, but for some, this program is just the "pick me up" they need.
iParticipate Part 3
In the third and final part of our week-long special report on volunteering, we visit a local organization that sells gently used clothing and household goods to people looking to save some bucks.
From clothing to decorations for your house, Noah's Arc has just about anything you need or want, but what makes this thrift shop different from others is the impact they make on our community.
"I feel that we're here to help the public," says Veronica Way, Manager of Noah's Arc.
But like any business, a lot of hard word goes in to being successful.
Executive director, Christina Smith says most of that work is done by volunteers.
"We cherish them, we love them because if it weren't for our volunteers, we wouldn't be able to do what we do," says Smith.
Whether it's devoting one hour a week or forty, they need all the help they can get.
"If it has to be pulled out of a box or a bag or out of the donation bin, then it has to hung, it has to be folded, so there are many types of activities that the volunteers do here at the shops," says Smith.
Noah's Arc in South Parkersburg and Vienna appreciate the extra hands.
Kayla Graham has been working with the shop for some time now, helping wherever she can and she's happy to have the opportunity.
"Many people believe that people with disabilities are always on the receiving end of volunteerism, but at The Arc, we believe and we understand that there are many people out there, with disabilities, that have skills and knowledge and have the ability to give back to the community," says Way.
So, whether you're looking for a great bargain or looking to give back, just know there's always people in need.
"If they see a big truck out here, oh my gosh, they're waiting to see what came in," says Way.