- Voice of San Diego - https://www.voiceofsandiego.org -

Volunteer Progams Need Strong Leadership

 

A letter in response to an article [1] in the San Diego U-T on April 28 about volunteerism in San Diego.

Mr. Karl Higgins, who wrote the commentary, has served as a director and volunteer at numerous local non-profits. Was he paid as a director? I would imagine that he was.

It has been my experience as a high school teacher that volunteers are helpful in the classroom, but volunteers aren’t paid professionals and don’t need to show up. Many times they don’t show up for reasons from having a lunch date with an old friend to having surgery.

As a career volunteer in University City, I can speak to the enormous numbers of volunteers who do the work of the city government and have done it for decades in this community and in the communities across San Diego. The many volunteers I encounter in University City serve the library and park and recreation.

Friends of the Library [2] are volunteers who provide support and fundraising for our library and help the professional youth services librarian and head librarian. Our head librarian is currently serving half of her time in the North University City Library and half of her time in South University City Library.

With the huge numbers flocking to libraries like ours, we need to make certain that libraries don’t just stay open with the lights on, but that the staff stays to do its professional jobs that can’t be replaced by volunteers. Libraries aren’t places that just check out books.

Librarians, especially youth services and head librarians, are directors like Mr. Higgins; they play a critical role. They have reinvented libraries as community centers as active as beehives; concerts, computer education, storytime and tutoring are a few examples of their activities.

In regards to the Park and Recreation Department, Standley Park and Nobel Park are also overseen by trained professionals. Standley Recreation Council is a volunteer organization that oversees several activities that occur at our park and recreation center. Volunteers in University City plan family events like summer concerts, a Fourth of July Celebration, Little League, softball, basketball leagues and more. Do you get the volunteer picture? We have an outstanding, professionally trained director, Sarah Anderson-Erazo, a professionally trained staff and hardworking volunteers in place who need the expertise of professionals overseeing Standley.

When the San Diego City Council tries a pilot program of having volunteers in their department and in the mayor’s office with a “new and energized volunteer program,” as Mr. Higgins suggests, then departments like libraries and park and recreation can implement that plan. Let’s see what happens.

Sandy Lippe lives in University City.