Volunteers are the backbone for many organizations in Geneseo. “It would be very difficult for us to do what we do without our volunteers,” said Geneseo Chamber of Commerce executive director Brian DeJohn.

Volunteers are the backbone for many organizations in Geneseo.

"It would be very difficult for us to do what we do without our volunteers," said Geneseo Chamber of Commerce executive director Brian DeJohn.

Rebuilding Together of Geneseo/Cambridge director Sarah Snyder agreed. "We wouldn't be able to complete our work without volunteers. It just wouldn't happen."

Volunteer opportunities in Geneseo range from walking dogs at the humane society to driving the parking lot shuttle at Hammond-Henry Hospital.

In all cases, organizers say volunteers most often give of their time as a way to give back to their community.

"Volunteers have a sense of community. They want to do their part and help out. They enjoy making people happy and they want to see the community continue to be successful," said DeJohn.

"Volunteers are people-people. They like being around people and meeting new people while being challenged," said Julie West, the volunteer/Auxiliary manager for Hammond-Henry Hospital.

"When you volunteer, it really makes you feel like you're contributing something. In our case, they're helping animals, but they're really helping people, too," said Micki Ogrosky, the volunteer coordinator for the Henry County Humane Society - Geneseo.

"We're fortunate in Geneseo to have people who take a great deal of pride in their community. They want to serve others," said Snyder. Her organization, Rebuilding Together, is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates homes for low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly or those with disabilities.

"Whether or not they know it, our volunteers have changed somebody's life. Even if they're just doing something like picking up leaves from someone's yard, they've made a difference," said Snyder.

At Hammond-Henry Hospital, volunteers are able to provide the "extras."

"Obviously our volunteers aren't involved directly with health care, but they can add the personal touches. They can take those few extra minutes to walk with someone to their appointment or help get them a wheelchair. Our staff enjoys doing those things as well, but it takes them away from their direct patient care," noted West. "Our volunteers also are on the front lines and can make suggestions for changes or improvements. They're feedback is important."

In Geneseo, many of the volunteers tend to be retirees or those without active families.

"Most of our volunteers are people who are a little older. They're the ones who have the extra time. They're not running their children to basketball games or other events," said DeJohn.

"Everybody's busy. A lot of people have family obligations which makes it difficult for them to volunteer their time," said Ogrosky.

"Our volunteers are, more or less, retires or at least folks who are partially retired. However, as the job market's been tighter, we are seeing more people who are out of work and have time to volunteer. We're also seeing older teens opt to volunteer because of the difficulty in finding summer jobs," said West.

"I think people can be hesitant about volunteering because there's a fear of the unknown. They're worried about the type of commitment they'll have to make. You have to be up front with volunteers as to your expectations. Often, they're worried about agreeing to something they won't be able to fulfill," said DeJohn.

"I think anybody can be a good volunteer. The trick is matching the volunteering task to the interest of the person. I've been most successful when I listen to what a person likes to do and what their interests are," said West.

While individuals may think of certain volunteer opportunities when considering an organization, Ogrosky said there are often many more ways for people to volunteer.

"Even if a volunteer can't come to the animal shelter, they can help with fund-raising, help with our Web site or help at our ice cream socials. There are many more opportunities to volunteer than I think people realize," she said.

While finding volunteers can be tricky at times, many Geneseo organizations say individuals in the community are willing to offer their time.

"We've not had much of a problem getting volunteers, but, as a hospital, we're one of the first places people tend to think of when considering volunteering," explained West. "Word of mouth is one of the biggest ways we get volunteers. People bring their friends."

"It's amazing that, rain or shine, our volunteers turn out for our work days," said Snyder, the Rebuilding Together director.

"Our volunteer pool runs hot and cold," said Henry County Humane Society - Geneseo president Karen Russell. "Sometimes we'll have a number of volunteers and other times we'll be looking for volunteers."

"Finding volunteers can be a struggle," said the Geneseo Chamber of Commerce director. "You tend to see the same people volunteering over and over. It does put a burden on people and they run the risk of getting burned out."

"A good volunteer is someone who is reliable, comes when they say they will and is willing to do the work," said Ogrosky.