mobile food pantry

Lake Martin Area United Way has been focusing most of its volunteer efforts toward mobile food pantries. Its agencies are always looking for volunteers and there are many other volunteer opportunities in Tallapoosa County.

Tallapoosa County is full of philanthropic opportunities and its organizations rely heavily on volunteers to adequately achieve their missions. Whether it’s a one-time event or time committed on a regular basis, community members are always needed at local nonprofits and chambers of commerce.

Main Street Alexander City is a nonprofit focused on the revitalization and promotion of its downtown area and businesses. The organization functions under a four-pronged approach, each led by volunteer committee chairs, looking for helping hands with various projects.

“We depend on volunteers and donations in order to enable us to do what we do,” Main Street director Stacey Jeffcoat said. “The projects we work on benefit our downtown, which is the heartbeat of our community and helps with the recruitment of businesses.”

Whether interested in volunteering during events, assisting with design and beautification plans or simply aiding with organizational efforts in the office, there are plentiful options.

“We always need help with our events, during the (Alexander City) Farmers Market, help getting ready for board meetings, design projects, volunteers to be on our committees and more,” Jeffcoat said. “Whatever you might be interested in, I can guarantee we can find the perfect spot for you within Main Street’s program.”

With Main Street invested in the betterment of the community, Jeffcoat said it’s also a great way for residents to give back to their hometown.

Lake Martin Area United Way is another great option for someone looking to volunteer as much or as little time as they can to help with local nonprofits. United Way serves 22 partnering agencies in the county, all who rely heavily on input from the community to function and serve residents.

“Last year, in 2019, we had 817 volunteers,” United Way director Sharon Fuller said. “With the COVID-19 restrictions, most of our volunteering has been with the mobile food pantries lately and trying to organize those.”

Oftentimes, community members will reach out to Fuller directly to get involved and she can then match them with the appropriate organization based on need.

“If we have fundraisers or events going on with certain agencies, we can sort of match them up,” Fuller said. “It’s awesome to think we can really use anybody that calls.”

Fuller said a family who has been quarantined at its second home on Lake Martin for the past few months has reached out and been willing to help out in various ways.

“They called to volunteer — both a husband, wife and their adult children,” Fuller said. “Because while they’re here and working from home, they’re still at an age they can help out.” 

United Way seeks volunteers throughout the year and there is always something going on for anyone looking for a charitable cause.

The Alex City and Dadeville chambers of commerce both also rely on volunteers for their annual functions. 

The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce organizes an ambassador program, which is a synergetic relationship that provides extra hands at chamber events and also provides a networking opportunity for the ambassadors involved.

“We invite them to ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings, Business After Hours and we typically have one meeting a month to talk about what’s going on, what’s coming up and where we need help,” chamber vice president of marketing and special events Kim Dunn said. “It’s really just a volunteer opportunity to meet new people, learn and grow themselves and their business.”

Some ambassadors help out on occasion when it’s possible and others use it as a stepping stone toward other areas of leadership.

“I always say, ‘If everyone does what they can do, then it all gets done,’” Dunn said. “Some ambassadors are perfectly content being an ambassador and others enjoy the leadership-type roles. We have all different personalities.”

Chamber president and CEO Ed Collari added the chamber partners with Benjamin Russell students frequently as well since they are given community service requirements for graduation.

“We always try to be cognizant of people’s time and not over burden them,” Collari said. “You can be involved for as long or as short as you want.”

The chamber recognizes an ambassador of the year at its annual meeting.

The Lake Martin Dadeville Area Chamber most recently passed off interested parties to United Way and Tri-County Children’s Advocacy Center for volunteer work as that was an immediate need due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“They have lists readily available so we focused our efforts on moving to help those two groups,” Dadeville chamber president Michael Carter said. “We don’t really have a system but when someone says, ‘Hey what can I do?’ we find somewhere to place them.”

Carter said the chamber creates groups that each are in charge of different events or areas of service and he pairs volunteers with appropriate projects based on their skills, needs and passion.

“We tried to start a food pantry drop-off, pickup at the Wellness Center that had a little success but a lot of what we were finding is we didn’t have the manpower and people were well involved with other things,” Carter said. 

So not for a lack of need but the chamber has struggled to recruit necessary help.

“We would love for people to always be on a volunteer list,” Carter said. “The difference is we don’t currently have a full-time employee committed to running the chamber. We’ve got a good, strong small group and some volunteers but there are not a ton of them right now.

“If someone is interested, we would definitely put them to work.”

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.