Linda Benedict, Fletcher, Jr., Bobby H.
Volunteers play a vital role in the delivery of research-based programs conducted by the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service. We need well-trained volunteers to provide their expertise in a variety of areas such as gardening, youth development, agriculture, healthy living and more. Empowering volunteers as active partners of the LSU AgCenter has been key to the mission of helping people improve the quality of their lives across Louisiana.
In 2010, more than 12,000 volunteers contributed more than 367,000 hours to the LSU AgCenter. This equates to more than 200 full-time employees. Adults serve as Master Gardeners, Master Horseman, Master Cattleman, 4-H Master Volunteers, Louisiana Volunteers for Family and Community and many more. Both youth and adult 4-H volunteers serve as school and project club leaders, committee members, middle managers, school enrichment volunteers, after-school club volunteers, special activity volunteers and camp volunteers.
Taking advantage of volunteer talents is one way to help offset some of the downsizing in the LSU AgCenter because of budget constraints. In fact, we have initiated a program, called the Extension Volunteer Corps, in which former employees of the AgCenter are now active as volunteers. Eighteen are enrolled so far. Two examples are Joan McCrory, a former state specialist with the 4-H program who helps with cataloguing items at the 4-H Museum in Mansura, and Dale Pollet, former extension entomologist, who still willingly answers questions about bugs.
Based on my experience, it is critical that we as an organization continue to improve our methods of recruiting, training and using volunteers as well as recognizing their efforts accordingly. This can help us be more effective in our outreach efforts with limited resources. There are numerous reasons to volunteer, including the ability to give or share with others; to learn and develop understanding and skills; to enhance social relationships; to learn career-related skills; and to enhance one’s selfworth. Volunteers do not only exist to aid in implementing programs. Research consistently indicates that volunteers have specific needs that influence their participation. My hope is that we will continue to strengthen our volunteer recruitment and retention efforts.
If you would like to volunteer to help with AgCenter programs, please contact your local extension office. A listing of the offices and contact information is on our website at www.LSUAgCenter.com. The AgCenter will benefit, you will benefit – and, most important, the people of Louisiana will benefit.
Bobby H. Fletcher, Southeast Region Director
(This article was published in the summer 2011 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)