Opportunities shared, found

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 07:02 PM

More than a dozen organizations and agencies spent part of the day on Friday participating in Make a Difference Day at Lowe’s in Henderson.

“It’s an opportunity to get the word out,” said store manager Bobby Gibson.

And that’s what the organizations did.

Shoppers stopped by the organizations’ tables to pick up brochures, ask questions and sign up as volunteers.

Linwood Martin, who coordinates Teen Court for the Henderson/Vance County Recreation Department, said he has a tremendous need for male volunteers.

“Most of our volunteers are women,” he said, “but most of our Teen Court participants are male. They need role models.”

The program allows teenage first offenders to be tried by their peers rather than going through the juvenile justice system. It’s all run by teenagers. Only the judge is an adult — a real judge or an attorney. Those found guilty in Teen Court will not have a criminal record if they carry out the provisions of their sentences.

Sherri Alston, of the Vance County Department of Social Services, and Connie Ragland, of the Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce, sat side by side behind a table displaying brochures about Work First.

The two work together on Work First, a program to help individuals find employment and, in Ragland’s phrase, “help them with employability skills.”

Adam Van Stedum, district director for the Occoneechee Council of the Scouts of America, said the organization needs adult leaders as well as volunteers to help Scouts work on merit badges.

Steve Lyles, of Rebuilding Hope, said his organization makes minor repairs on homes of elderly people.

“Sometimes it’s more than minor,” Lyles said.

Rebuilding Hope has built 36 handicap ramps in the past year, he said.

Joan Robinson and Leon Parker represented the Kittrell Job Corps Center. They need volunteers as tutors, especially for reading and math. Parker, a career transition services specialist, said he helps Job Corps graduates find jobs, enter college or join the military.

Steven Fisher, who was in Lowe’s to shop, said, “Job Corps is the best kept secret in Vance County. We definitely need to keep it.”

Doug Abbott, a Lowe’s customer service associate, picked up literature about organ donations from Taylor Anderton of Carolina Donor Services. Abbott said he was willing to donate some organs, but “I can’t donate my heart. I’ve had a couple of surgeries on it.”

Anderton said there are 3,500 people in North Carolina waiting for organs to be donated. Less then 50 percent of North Carolinians are signed up as donors, she said.

Most donors are signed up by the Department of Motor Vehicles when they renew their driver’s licenses. However, Anderton pointed out that a person can sign up by going to donatealifenc.org.

Twana Jones of Area Christians Together in Service said they need volunteers to deliver meals to the homebound and to nursing homes. As a result of state budget cuts, ACTS is closing Hearts Haven, a shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence.

Gary Blue, veterans’ employment representative with the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Workforce Solutions, said volunteers are needed at the JobLink Career Center to help individuals sharpen their skills in operating office equipment and writing resumes.

Lauren Davenport, a flooring associate with Lowe’s, picked up brochures from several tables. The 23-year-old works two part-time jobs but still said, “I have nothing to do when I get off work. Volunteering keeps me busy. I love it.”

John Juntunen, of the Henderson Fire Department, handed out literature on fire prevention, home safety and children’s car seats.

Holly Hatch represented the American Red Cross. She pointed out that they operate with 94 percent volunteers, who help people find food, clothing and shelter at any time but especially after a disaster.

Lt. Irvin Robinson and Lamont Burchette of the Henderson Police Department had a table covered with brochures related to safety, law enforcement and crime prevention.

Erica Cozart and Shirley Preston were there from Reaching the Hearts of Women International Ministries of Kittrell. Their organization has a mobile food pantry, a mentoring program and a clothes closet. They are currently gathering back-to-school supplies for children.

The motto of Reaching the Hearts of Women International Ministries offers a good summation of the day: “Everybody doing a little bit adds up to a whole lot.”

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.