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Since the early hours of the wildfires, thousands of people have come together to volunteer. And, it’s clear, this diversity of skills, and expertise will help transform our community as we rebuild. With widespread loss to both structures and the environment, we have much work to do. Many hands, minds, and hearts will be necessary.

The good news, is that there is room for everyone to be involved and all ages are encouraged to be of service. This is a time for our younger generations to see how volunteerism shapes a community.

As we look back at this period of our lives, we want everyone to have played a part in the shaping of our future by volunteering time to rebuild. Sonoma County ranks number one in volunteerism in the state of California, and during the rebuild we will keep it that way!

With rebuilding comes tremendous need for labor and leadership. In the coming months and years, the work will change but the need will grow. Early projections of unmet needs indicate skill-based volunteers will be required to balance the work load.

Based on experienced long-term recovery efforts, some areas of focus include: housing, construction, environment, spiritual and emotional, case management, equity/financing, donation and volunteer management. For many fire survivors, volunteers will be the key foundation to their future stability and the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, in coordination with nonprofits will work together to make that a reality.

Already thousands of volunteers have invested in the relief and recovery efforts. As early as 6 a.m. on October 9, the phones at the Volunteer Center began ringing with people offering volunteer support. Along with locals, volunteers were arriving in Sonoma County from across the state performing life-saving and support roles.

The response from spontaneous volunteers lasted for weeks and has since slowed to calls and inquiries about holiday volunteering. This an opportunity!

With the focus and priority on rebuilding, there is much more to do. Each year hundreds of nonprofits support our most vulnerable community members and now there are exponentially more people seeking social services. To fill the gap in capacity, volunteers are needed.

What really might surprise people is the range of help needed from tasks that may seem “too small to make a difference” to project leadership and professional expertise. To take a first step in volunteering, familiarize yourself with the Volunteer Center’s website at www.volunteernow.org to find opportunities of interest. To register your name and special skills on the Rebuilding Registry call the Volunteer Center at 707-573-3399 or email info@volunteernow.org. Include name, phone number and special skills such as certificates, languages, professional expertise. You can also make an appointment for an interview to make a match.

While nonprofits continue to navigate the “new normal” in social services, please be patient. We are all learning together, and we are all doing our best. Many nonprofits are overwhelmed with volunteers and donations and others are in dire need. With time and careful coordination, we will soon be coordinated. In the next couple of months, you can look to these organizations for frequent volunteer needs.

Redwood Empire Food Bank – Many volunteer opportunities to help our neighbors in need. Enhance your cooking skills volunteering in the REFB Kitchen Collective program. Provide support at an REFB benefit event or at one of our many food distribution sites. Visit website refb.org or call 707-523-7900.

St. Vincent de Paul – volunteers needed to sort donations Mon- Sat. 11am-6pm and Sun. 10am-4pm at 5671 Redwood Dr. Rohnert Park, CA 94928. You may also call 707-584-1579 for more information.

Sonoma Ecology Center – needs help with emergency watershed protection. For more information email volunteer@sonomaecologycenter.org or call 707-996-0712 ext. 107.

Sonoma Family Meal is looking for Volunteers for many shifts. Needs are Drivers, Kitchen Helpers, Food Runners, and Distributors. Call or email SonomaFamilyMeal@gmail.com and 707-800-9760.

Redwood Gospel Mission – volunteers needed to sort donation Monday thru Saturday. Call 707-578-1830 for more information.

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