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City officials say volunteerism is essential

December 21, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

Four or five times a week, David Snyder goes to Riverview Park and picks up trash. It's not something he thinks of as "volunteerism."

"Some people go out and walk around the mall," he said. "I got into the habit. I do it sometimes without thinking about it."

Snyder, 79, has been picking up trash on his own accord for the last 20 years. He said a lot has changed in that time, but the park still needs someone to clean it.

Article Photos

Library volunteer Samantha Edwards works on the library’s web page Tuesday afternoon. The library recognized its volunteers, who logged more than 4,500 hours in 2012, at Monday’s city council meeting.

Snyder is just one of the volunteers recognized in the past few weeks. The Parks and Recreation department presented Snyder and multiple other volunteers with certificates Dec. 10 acknowledging their service.

Monday, the Marshalltown Public Library recognized its volunteers at the Marshalltown City Council's final meeting of the year.

"They just enhance what we do," said Sandy Gowdy, assistant library director. "It just helps when regular staff need the extra time when they are gone, they are really missed."

According to a report issued by Corporation for National and Community Service in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship, volunteerism hit a five-year high in 2011. More than 64 million Americans volunteered last year. The report found that more than one in four adults volunteered at a formal organization during that time.

Gowdy said prior to 1992, the library had one volunteer. After losing half its staff, the library saw volunteerism explode in the years that followed.

Terry Gray, Parks and Recreation director, said the division of volunteers has helped her department. A variety of committees such as those for the dog and skate parks and the disc golf course keep the city looking at new ideas while individual volunteers often help keep up on maintenance.

"There has always been those people that have stepped forward when we needed something done," she said. "If we keep having people come forward, pretty soon we will have everything we need."

Often, Gray said, people like Snyder do not get the recognition they deserve. But Snyder doesn't do it for the recognition.

"I grew up on a farm. I just like being out," he said. "It breaks the monotony."

And that kind of civic mindedness is important, Gray said.

Randy Wetmore, city administrator, said he has worked in several communities throughout the country, and Marshalltown has a higher instance of volunteerism than other places he has lived. People regularly take an interest in being citizens, whether it's at RAGBRAI, Oktemberfest or people just volunteering for their local church or school.

"It must just be part of the culture here," he said. "People step up and make things happen."

And it also helps make the city government leaner, saving time and manpower, he said. Volunteer efforts help the city offer better service and, in some cases, offer service where it wouldn't otherwise be able.

Library volunteers logged more than 4,500 hours in 2012. Police department volunteers logged 320 hours, saving the city more than $10,000, said Capt. Brian Batterson, with the Marshalltown Police Department.

Volunteer Beverly Cumberlidge, 87, said she stocks shelves at the library because she believes in the power of the written word, and Samantha Edwards, 25, said, since graduating college, she volunteers to help sharpen her skills in public relations.

Sarah Rosenblum, library director, said Edwards and Cumberlidge represent how people of all ages can chip in. Everyone can find some sort of volunteer effort that appeals to them.



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