|Charity & Volunteerism|
|By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global|
Welcome to 2019 and another exiting year for corrections. Out topic this month is ‘Charity & Volunteerism.’ Previously, I have written about this topic and shared my personal views and opinions. To begin, first ask yourself: What does charity and volunteerism represent to me? Am I involved in any charity or volunteerism activities? If not, why not? I am attempting to generate and/or increase our charity and volunteerism participation for 2019.
Corrections over the years has made a strong presence in charity organizations, such as the United Way, and use of volunteers in corrections and other fields. At times, I do not think we recognize the number of volunteers and commitments they make. Some of the commitments relate to receiving no pay, personal satisfaction and opportunity to help others, making a positive difference in the life of another, and the list continues. All of us deal with resources and understand the many issues presented. Yet, through the use of volunteers, we find tremendous support from corrections, other fields, and those that want to help and become part of the volunteer community. When we track the number of volunteer hours, there is a tremendous salary savings. Without the use of volunteers, some services provided would cease.
Volunteers are often involved in non-profit organizations. Some of the volunteer areas identified are below and not ranked in a particular order:
My wife and I reside in southern Florida and experienced Hurricane Irma. We lost power for several days, had severe damage to our roof, and much debris. Through the support of many volunteers and different organizations, we received a variety of aid. The Corp of Engineers placed a temporary ‘blue roof on our home. (A heavy blue in color roof covering. Good for over a year). Our new roof was replaced 10 months later. Even though we stored water and other non-perishable items, the National Guard, Red Cross, and other volunteer assisted in distribution of water, can goods and other food items, tarps, etc. Our power was off one week and we considered ourselves fortunate.
My corrections experiences were working with volunteers in Substance Abuse Programs (Alcohol Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous), Jaycee Organizations, religious volunteers, and other areas. Yes, there certainly are a variety of programs in corrections where volunteers participate. These were very good programs and well attended by the inmate population.
There is a process for volunteers to make application, be approved, trained, and mentored. Again, this will vary system to system. Are there ever any problems with the volunteers? Certainly, and corrections tries to minimize this. One area of concern is trafficking and trading with the offender population. Some volunteers mean well, but have a difficult time saying no and also advising staff. Please note, this also can occur with staff and officers. Does the benefit of volunteers outweigh safety and security concerns? There are many variables to consider and I will let you decide.
At the same time, the majority of our volunteers are very dedicated and proud of their work. They also deserve a pat on the back and recognition. When working with or around volunteers, have you ever taken time to communicate with them. You also play an important role in the use of volunteers and can assist in guiding and mentoring volunteers.
If you are not familiar with the use of volunteers in your agency, take some time to research this. You can also be a very good recruitment tool for volunteers. A large percentage of agencies most often are always looking for ‘good’ volunteers. I found through various community business groups and churches an interest in corrections. Check with your agency on recruitment of volunteers and opportunities to speak to outside groups. An excellent proactive measure to improve communications between the community and agency. Be creative and identify ways you can assist and perhaps identify areas where the use of volunteers may be utilized.
As I mentioned previously, take an active role and get involved in your community. Especially if you have children. What better way of building family bonds? There are many positive interactions and look at what you are teaching your children. If you are retired and getting bored, see what opportunities to volunteer are in your community. Another great way to ‘give back’ to the community, do not become a couch potato, make new friends. This is an ideal opportunity for you. You will feel better about yourself and the unselfish contributions. Imagine the potential if volunteers increase in small to large percentages.
We are a diverse culture in this country. Many of you speak or know of someone who speaks other languages. We are aware of the communication barriers in corrections and our community. If you speak another language, why not research this area and see where you may be able to assist. Hopefully, some of you will take this opportunity to become part of the volunteer community.
Stay safe out there.
Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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