UMSL holds Employee Volunteer Program Fair

UMSL Employee Volunteer Program Fair

UMSL staffers Caitlin Downey (second from right) and Jaime L. Lincoln (far right) share a laugh with YMCA representatives (from left) Tiffany Barke, Sherita Love and Jeni Koenigsfeld during the Employee Volunteer Program Fair held Thursday at UMSL.

If there was a theme for the inaugural Employee Volunteer Program Fair, it was “Volunteers are the backbone of our organization.”

That was the message repeated time and again during the fair Thursday in the Century Rooms at the Millennium Student Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Sixty St. Louis-area nonprofit organizations came to campus to speak with UMSL employees about volunteer opportunities. One by one, the agency representatives emphasized how important volunteers are to their missions.

“Volunteers are vital to our organization,” said Cindi Blanke, client services coordinator with Support Dogs Inc. “We could not get along without them.”

“I love this program,” Pam Bolton, executive director of the Wildlife Rescue Center. “Volunteers are critical to our work.”

The Employee Volunteer Program was the brainchild of Elizabeth Pawloski, coordinator of volunteer services at UMSL. She said she and her boss, Peter Heithaus, associate vice chancellor for human resources at UMSL, had discussed the idea since she joined the university six years ago.

“We thought it would be a nice little free benefit that we could offer the employees,” Pawloski said.

The volunteer program will provide full-time staff members at UMSL with up to eight hours of paid time per calendar year during scheduled work hours to volunteer for qualifying volunteer organizations in the St. Louis area.

After selecting an approved agency and with the approval of their supervisor, employees will be able to log their scheduled volunteer time in the same way they log their vacation or sick leave time at the myHR website. The program begins July 1, and the fair introduced the program to the campus.

“We were hoping that employees would come over and choose an organization to volunteer with,” she said.

UMSL employees who attended said they were pleased with the program.

“I think this is a pretty good idea,” said Jaime L. Lincoln, an admissions advisor who talked with representatives of the YMCA of Greater St. Louis. “I’m excited about it, and there are a lot of opportunities.”

Caitlin Downey, another admissions advisor, said the program will be a good way to practice outreach.

“This program gives the staff the opportunity to get out into the community, where they can spread the word about UMSL and about higher education,” Downey said.

Other organizations on hand included the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, The Nature Institute, Wildlife Rescue Center, Missouri Botanical Garden, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Red Cross, Neighborhood Houses, Special Olympics, Emmaus House, Illinois Center for Autism, St. Patrick Center, Lutheran Senior Services, Habitat for Humanity, Mid-East Area Agency on Aging and Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

Pawloski said she was happy with the turnout. “We’ve had 50 employees come over in the first hour.”

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