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It Takes a Village of Volunteers to Make a Community!

Chronicle Guest View

July 4, 2011
By Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director - Keep Iowa Beautifu
The title focuses on an analogy to the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child”. This analogy is equally appropriate, as it takes many volunteers to keep a community clean and attractive. Most communities have limited resources for maintaining public grounds and rely heavily on volunteers. The volunteers are indeed special people, who have a sense of community pride and the respect for other people. These volunteers are also actively involved on councils, committees, church groups, service clubs, and helping with many of the community events. A community with low volunteer involvement tends to be a community without vitality. There can be no better example of this concept than Fort Dodge, Iowa. They have a unique group of dedicated volunteers, mostly senior, but several youth during the summer months. This group is called “Pride In Community Appearance” or PICA. This group begins meeting each year around April 22 (Earth Day). They meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings each week for two (2) hours – one hour of work and one hour of social time. There are 60-80 volunteers in total, with each session averaging about 24 volunteers. The volunteers are active throughout the community, weeding, cleaning, painting, landscaping and planting. This year will be their TENTH year. Their success is evident by simply making a visit to Fort Dodge – judge for yourself. Just imagine the dollar value of what they have done over the ten year period. They have put in 14,167 hours of volunteer time valued at $20 / hour represents a value of $283,340. Now count in the donated dollars, supplies and services, estimated at $30,000. Lastly, value the improvements made to the community – estimated at several thousand dollars. In total the contribution of PICA over the ten years is between $250,000 and half a million dollars. What an amazing contribution to community enhancement. The formula for their success can be defined by two words – PRIDE and RESPECT. There is more to the story, however, and here are the rules that have guided the program. Be aggressive and positive. They don’t wait to be asked – they determine what needs to be done and then obtain approval before proceeding. Don’t wait for public funds. Work for private support and action. This group is heavily dependent of donations, not only of dollars, but of in-kind materials, services and partnerships. They have a clear mission mixed with a great social ambience of having fun and enjoyment from “a job well done”. Challenge your community to form an organization like PICA and see what a difference it can make in your town and its residents – make your community a “village of volunteers”.



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