Margaret Nelson: View From the River – April is Volunteer Appreciation Month

Published: 04-13-2023 9:01 AM

Volunteers are the secret sauce of the nonprofit world. Volunteers do so many things that are essential to the functioning of our nonprofits.

Let’s look at the volunteer board of trustees. They give of their time, their skills, their wisdom. The board is responsible for ensuring that the nonprofit is fulfilling the mission of the organization and is fiscally sound. The River Center’s board is comprised of individuals who are excited about the mission of the center: “The River Center provides parent education, family support and community connections in a welcoming environment to strengthen individuals and families in the Eastern Monadnock Region.”

The board brings a variety of personal and professional skills and viewpoints to the table, which is invaluable to the organization. The River Center board has members who are good with the finances, others who understand marketing and communication, another who has a social work background, a legal professional, educators and several who have worked in the nonprofit world.

What this means to me, as the executive director, is that I have a wonderful resource in these eight stellar volunteers. They know stuff I don’t know, are willing to help where needed and take their role as board members seriously. I am exceedingly grateful to work with this amazing group of volunteers.

Since you will be reading this near the end of the 2023 tax season, I can’t miss out on telling you about this group of River Center volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is just that. The tax program is coordinated and scheduled by the staff, but the tax returns are completed by 11 IRS certified tax volunteers. In addition, we have about a dozen volunteers who support the program by setting up for tax sessions and acting as greeters.

These volunteers spend hours preparing the taxes, meeting with clients, hearing their stories and answering their questions. Not all the returns are simple, and sometimes they puzzle through specific issues with each other, do research to make sure the returns are accurate and maximize any possible refunds and credits.

I am always amazed at the dedication of these volunteers. And they all seem to love doing this. Why do they volunteer to help with this free tax program?  One tax preparer commented, “People are so grateful. It's a simple thing to do (tax volunteering). In terms of gratitude, it's palpable, it's immediate.” A tax program greeter said this, "I enjoy being able to make people comfortable when they come in the door and help them with the paperwork if they need help. I see their relief and their happiness when they walk out the door and one of our preparers has helped them with their taxes. It makes you feel good."

Wood bank volunteers have operated The River Center for over 10 years. The wood bank to supplies supplemental firewood for households needing a little extra wood to get through a rough patch. Many volunteers help cut, split, stack and deliver firewood. For the last few years, Monadnock Congregational Church has taken the lead in coordinating volunteers for the wood bank. In addition, students from the Conant and Conval high school Interact clubs, the Dublin School, community service volunteers and businesses have volunteered as work crews at the wood bank. Thank you all!

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There are other ways in which volunteers support the work of The River Center. During the holidays, our Christmas Angels buy gifts for children and families. Gardens have been planned and planted, bark mulch spread, dump runs taken, furniture assembled, rotating art curated, envelopes stuffed and cookies baked. 

For Volunteer Appreciation Month, find a volunteer and thank them. Ask about being a volunteer. Volunteers really do make the world a better place.

Thank you, volunteers!

Margaret Nelson is executive director of The River Center in Marshfield.