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Retiree Volunteers Getting Mesa United Way Through Tough Times

January 25, 2010

MESA, Ariz. - Faced with a 30 percent drop in donations, Mesa United Way has turned to retired volunteers with project management experience to help their member agencies overcome the funding shortfall. United Way president Carol McCormack says the over-55 volunteers don't need a lot of training or supervision.

"When you get an older adult volunteer, they've already been part of a work force. They've already done project management. They are people that you can really just give the parameters of the job to, and they go and do the job."

As the result of a grant, McCormack says, Mesa United Way has 17 full-time federal VISTA volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds who receive stipends of about $950 a month. The volunteers serve for one year.

McCormack says one volunteer with experience running a consignment shop has organized a "foster care closet," where parents of foster children can select from donated clothing. Another VISTA senior has organized a corps of volunteer tax preparers for low-income people.

"This VISTA volunteer, this person who's 55-plus, who has done lots of project management in his previous life, has just done an amazing job of recruiting volunteers, getting them trained, and getting the sites up and running for getting taxes done."

McCormack says the VISTA workers are making a huge difference at a time when donations are way down, while more people than ever are seeking help.

"Many of the member agencies have received not only less in donations, but some of them are very dependent upon grants from foundations or grants from the government. And of course, all of those have decreased also."

McCormack says Mesa United Way will begin recruiting more VISTA volunteers in April.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ