City, United Way Launch Effort to Recruit Volunteers, Tutors, Mentors•
Lynne P. Shackleford, Staff Writer
After a recent shooting in Spartanburg, Mayor Junie White thought the city could do more to prevent violent crimes.
A TV news reporter had asked the mayor what the city planned to do to curb crime, and White later approached Community Services Director Mitch Kennedy about the possibility of several agencies working together to help the city’s most vulnerable citizens — children.
On Tuesday morning, the city and the United Way of the Piedmont, along with other agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club of the Upstate and Big Brothers Big Sisters, launched Get Connected, an online tool designed to match volunteers with organizations and schools that need people willing to mentor, tutor and volunteer.
United Way President and CEO Chris Steed said volunteers are critical to the community and are the lifeblood of any organization, including the United Way. Last year, volunteers logged more than 90,000 hours of community service. If those volunteers had been compensated for their time, it would have cost about $2 million in salaries and benefits.
Steed called Get Connected the “next chapter” in the city’s partnership with the United Way. Together, the city and the organization are recruiting 500 volunteers this year.
Well, make that 495 volunteers.
Spartanburg Public Safety Director Tony Fisher said he recruited five volunteers at City Hall on his way to Tuesday’s kickoff.
The yearlong effort will build on this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Week and its theme, “Serve with a Purpose.”
Spartanburg School District 7 Superintendent Russell Booker said a trusted mentor or counselor can mean the difference between a challenged student and a motivated student, or an average student and a great student.
Booker said there are those who are still challenged by school readiness, teen pregnancy, truancy and dropouts, but each of those can be positively influenced by adults who are willing to get involved.
Fisher spoke from a different perspective.
Last year, officers in his department arrested about 5,000 people.
“I’m not so sure that at least some of those people did not need to be in the criminal justice system,” Fisher said. “The criminal justice system is already overwhelmed so it’s difficult to administer constructive punishment and the appropriate sanctions.”
It’s much more beneficial, Fisher said, to curb violence and disruptive behavior through young students having role models who encourage good grades and positive life skills.
Steed said many different types of opportunities exist.
“If you save an hour a week or a half a Saturday a month, you can make a difference,” Steed said. “Whether you’re able to read to a class or volunteer with Boy or Girl Scouts, you’ll find an opportunity that suits you and your availability.”
Those interested in volunteer, mentor and tutoring opportunities can log onto www.connect2mycommunity.org.