Better to give than receive

Volunteers brighten the holidays for many

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Volunteers for the Alpena Community College Volunteer Center’s Christmas Wish List program pose with gifts they wrapped for children in Alpena. They are only a few of the many volunteers who help others during the holiday season.

ALPENA — The holidays are a busy time for local organizations, groups and clubs that host Christmas events and raise funds to help brighten the season for families in need.

To make those programs successful, hours of work is donated by volunteers, who graciously donate time and money to help others in their communities.

One of the largest Christmas giving operations is the Christmas Wish List, which is run via the Alpena Community College Volunteer Center. It matches the “wishes” of hundreds of children with donors who fulfill those wishes.

Gifts are usually clothing, household items, or toys.

Director Catherine Gurierrez-Abraham said it takes a lot of volunteers to pull off such a large mission. This year, there are more than 450 children who have wish lists and, if it wasn’t for the volunteers, it would be nearly impossible to fulfill them all, she said.

Gurierrez-Abraham said the holiday season brings out the best in a lot of people and, in many cases, the number of people wanting to volunteer increases at Christmastime.

“I think during the holiday season, we are more apt to give thanks for what we have and, when we see others who need help, it touches our heart and we want to give back,” Gurierrez-Abraham said. “I think people want to volunteer in any way they can to make sure the children get gifts and make this process work as well as it does.”

The Volunteer Center is one of many that depend on volunteers and look for help not only during Christmas but throughout the year. Volunteers are always needed at places such as Huron Humane Society, Alpena Senior Center, and many others.

Senior center Program Director BJ Sander said volunteers are critical to the facility’s operations, events and programs. She said the volunteers are hardworking and have a passion for helping the seniors who utilize the facility not only during the holidays but throughout the year.

“Our volunteers do an amazing job, especially during the holidays,” Sander said. “They are always there for us whenever I need them and will always volunteer, no matter what it is or when it is. They have a passion for working with seniors.”

Sander said more volunteers are always needed and anyone who is interested only needs to call her and set up a quick visit.

Gurierrez-Abraham said the volunteer center has a database of local nonprofits that need volunteers, and people can log onto its website and browse volunteering opportunities and select one to their liking. The center can be found online at discover.alpenacc.edu/about/visitors/volunteer–center.php.

“We have two pages of agencies looking for volunteers listed on the website,” she said. “People can also contact me and I will help them navigate it if they need some help connecting with them.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.