Mary-Litton Thornton is hoping that this year's VolunteerFest will help area residents to 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, VolunteerFest 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.
Catherine Yu of Burke, a junior at Lake Braddock High School, will be heading to Burke Elementary with five of her friends to lend a hand with gardening. She took part in Volunteer Fairfax's Prudential Youth Leadership Institute (PYLI) last summer and got the bug for gardening and volunteering.
"It opened my eyes to knowing that I can actually contribute to my community," she said.
So Yu did other volunteer work in the summer, and when she found out about VolunteerFest, got on board and brought her friends, also PYLI alums, along with her. And she's looking forward to getting her hands dirty again.
"Gardening is something that really shows physically. If you see a pretty garden, you know it took a lot of effort. I want to put in effort and make it a successful day," said Yu, also a member of Braddock's Ecology Club.
Jim Trigakis, who lives in Springfield and serves on the Volunteer Fairfax board of directors, will be lending a hand at his first VolunteerFest Saturday. He and his family will head to the Richard Byrd Library to do general clean-up and landscaping.
"It’s little things that anybody can do," said Trigakis of the effort at Richard Byrd Library. "It will be enough to make a noticeable difference when we’re done with it. I think the group coming out and doing what we can will be appreciated by the staff."
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.
"I think it’s a great opportunity. There are people who volunteer in the community throughout the year, who do little things all over the place, but this is an opportunity to come out all at once, to pool their efforts and focus people’s attention on volunteering," said Trigakis.
Since registration is already closed, those interested in volunteering for this weekend should visit Volunteer Fairfax's Web site [www.volunteerfairfax.org] , then choose a project of interest and just show up. They'll be more than welcome, said Thornton.
"We can always work it in," she said.