Parks & Recreation Volunteer Program reaches 12,500 service hours
The Parks & Recreation Department’s Volunteer Program has hit a milestone by recording more than 12,500 service hours since January 2013. The hours are an accumulation of service for Special Events, Athletics, Youth Development, Adaptive Recreation, Kidz Korner childcare and Knapp Activity Center. According to the national volunteering organization, Independent Sector, a volunteer hour is valued at $23.56; therefore, the program has provided budgetary relief of nearly $300,000 in a little more than 4.5 years since it began.
The volunteer program impacts the community, the Parks & Recreation Department and the individual volunteers. Through the program, volunteers provide logistical support for events and programs, which helps alleviate the need to schedule supplementary staff members. Furthermore, volunteers benefit in learning new skills and connecting with the community.
Volunteering for the Parks & Recreation Department is for individuals of all ages. From the youngest, a 6-year-old volunteer, to the eldest, who is 84-years-young. The volunteer force is a diverse group comprised of individuals from all backgrounds and nationalities who generously donate their time and talents towards making Pearland events safe and fun for everyone.
Volunteering has many benefits in addition to earning community service hours. Local churches and elementary schools utilize our program to teach their youngest members about self-sacrifice by spending weekends working on park renovation projects. High school students who have proven to be excellent volunteers, have received recommendations for employment, scholarships and college applications. They gain field experience by working with children, teens and senior citizens for several programs such as youth camp, the Kidz Korner childcare and special events. Many candidates for Eagle Scout and Girl Scout’s Gold Award complete their service projects with the Parks Department, including planting edible fruit trees, conducting community blood drives and creating bat habitats which ultimately encourages bats to reduce the mosquito population.
John and Joshua’s story
“John*,” painfully shy high school senior, applied to help with Kidz Korner childcare. A future engineer, John’s reason for volunteering was to learn how to conquer his fear of public speaking since his career would include complex presentations. By combining his love of children with his need to overcome his shyness, he eliminated his fears by conversing with parents about their children. Months later, during Trick or Treat Trail, John’s final undertaking before leaving for college was directing patrons exiting the shuttles - with a megaphone.
Some of our aides have mental or physical disabilities like “Joshua*,” a long-time volunteer that suffers memory and speech limitations due to a traumatic brain injury. Joshua has been regularly working special event shifts since January 2014. He volunteers because he enjoys helping the community.
In addition, City of Pearland Parks & Recreation offers nonprofits an opportunity to exchange volunteer hours in lieu of rental fees for event booths. In exchange for a Winterfest booth fee, the Pearland Saints Special Olympics softball team volunteered to help with shuttles. The men took their wheelchair and stroller loading responsibilities seriously and were instrumental in providing safety to event attendees boarding shuttle busses. Although the nationally renowned Saints have long since fulfilled their contract for volunteer hours, they are still contributing to City events. Their reward is intrinsic in that they feel valued for their efforts.
Additionally, the VIPs (Volunteers Impact Parks), have been volunteering since 2009, serving as some of the Program’s most committed volunteers. “Tell us what you want and then don’t worry about it because it will be taken care of,” is the motto of Ted Mittica, VIP Liasion. Members of this division of the Volunteer Program arrived pre-dawn at Independence Park armed with their personal brooms to sweep the pavilion’s slippery, wet concrete, then they hauled away metal debris from the previous night’s storm. Accomplishing all this before they began vendor check-in, which was their only event responsibility. Plus, it’s not uncommon to see many of the VIPs stay well after their shifts are complete.
As supported by exit surveys completed by volunteers at every event, personal connections are made with Parks & Recreation staff and the community. For several hours, volunteers put away cell phones, enjoy the great outdoors, learn new skills and meet a variety of people, while freely giving their time to benefit others. Overall, volunteering significantly impacts the people, parks and programs in Pearland. For more information on the volunteer program and view opportunities to get involved, visit pearlandtx.gov/parkvolunteer.
(*name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual)