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Take Time Out to Help Out

VolunteerFest set for Saturday, Oct. 23.

Mary-Litton Thornton is hoping that this year's VolunteerFest will help area residents realize how many opportunities exist for them to volunteer in their community. "So many people think there isn't a need in Fairfax County, but there is so much need," Thornton said.

Thornton is the marketing and outreach coordinator for Volunteer Fairfax, which is coordinating VolunteerFest. This is the 10th annual event. "It's just a big day of community-wide involvement," she said.

"It really is a tremendous boost to us," said Kate Wanderer, volunteer coordinator for the Fairfax County library system. Last year, VoulnteerFest concentrated its efforts on the county's libraries. "The people can do the kinds of things our staff doesn't have the time to do," Wanderer said.

"I think it's just a great opportunity to get out there and give something back to the community," said Karen Fitzgibbon, a Reston resident who works at AT&T in Oakton. Last year, Fitzgibbon, volunteered at Pimmit Hills Regional Library. "It was a beautiful day, and it was just a lot of fun," she said.

Volunteer Fairfax is a 30-year-old organization that seeks to connect people who wish to volunteer in their community with groups that need volunteers. "We're here as a resource," Thornton said.

The VolunteerFest came about in conjunction with National Make a Difference Day, which Thornton said tries to raise the awareness of volunteer opportunities in the area. "Volunteering can be interesting. It can be fun," she said.

This year, more than 50 different locations are looking for a total of at least 750 volunteers. Some locations are reserved for specific groups, and some have already had enough volunteers to meet their quota for the day.

While Volunteer Fairfax would prefer that individuals sign up for projects that are still understaffed, Thornton said that arrangements can be made if an individual is interested in a specific project. "We can always work it in," she said.

At last year's event, Fitzgibbon said, they had so many volunteers come that they ran out of equipment. "They were calling husbands and wives to get tools," she said.