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Push to establish volunteer resource centre


By Judith Lacy - Tribune (September 27th 2010)

Wanganui’s got one, Hawke’s Bay, too. Manawatu hasn’t. Not an ‘‘h’’, but a ‘‘v’’, a volunteer resource centre, symbolised nationwide by a red ‘‘v’’.

A volunteer recruitment and referral service for non-profit organisations has been mooted in Manawatu for years.

A day-long workshop attended by about 40 people in Palmerston North on Wednesday advanced the establishment of a volunteer centre here.

Participants brainstormed how a centre would operate and heard from managers of existing centres.

In 2004, Norelle Ward was contracted by the Manawatu Promotional Trust to assess the feasibility of recruiting volunteer ambassadors to promote Palmerston North.

She said it became obvious the bigger picture needed investigating.

In 2006, the Volunteer Resource Centre Manawatu & Districts charitable trust was formed to drive the establishment of a centre.

Wednesday’s workshop was funded by Internal Affairs and the department will receive a report on issues discussed.

Volunteering Hawke’s Bay manager Renata Lehmann did a feasibility study for a volunteer centre in Napier at the same time as the Palmerston North study.

She encouraged workshop attendees to get on and establish a centre.

In 2007-8, Napier made 106 referrals, growing to 144 in 2008-9. In the past three months the centre has referred 75 volunteers among its 37 member organisations.

Mrs Ward told The Tribune Palmerston North can be quite stuck in its ways and residents can take a while to think about new ideas. However, there was a new groundswell in support of a volunteer centre and the environment was right. She pointed to Trade Aid manager Nicky Healey’s submission to Palmerston North City Council earlier this year seeking support for a volunteer centre. Ms Healey was unaware of previous efforts to establish a centre.

She told the workshop she was ‘‘astonished’’ to find there had been so much work going on behind the scenes in support of a centre.

She was happy to find so many others thought it was an idea whose time had come.

Board chairman Pat Nolan told The Tribune the trust had been working hard over the years to get to the point where there was momentum to establish a centre.

It had to be driven from the grassroots and the time seemed to be right.

The workshop was about drawing on collective wisdom before a case was put to funding agencies, Mr Nolan said.

Palmerston North Citizens Advice Bureau has a list of organisations that use volunteers, which it shares with anyone who inquires.