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Roseville creates staff position to expand municipal volunteering
Kelly O’Brien envisions broad city support for volunteerism
Roseville has begun ramping up its efforts to tap into a new resource: volunteers. New hire Kelly O’Brien is spearheading the cause in the city’s newly created volunteer coordinator position.
O’Brien comes to the city with a plentitude of experience managing volunteers.
“I don’t even want to say [how long I’ve been doing this],” O’Brien joked, conceding that she has over 20 years’ experience in the field managing volunteers from large nonprofits to small grassroots organizations.
Searching out volunteers is something most departments had to do on their own before the volunteer coordinator position was created, O’Brien said.
“Until this point, it’s been something that staff members have been doing as part of their job, and they’ve been doing a phenomenal job,” she said. “But we want to be reaching everyone we can.”
City manager Patrick Trudgeon says the need for a volunteer coordinator was identified mainly by the Parks and Recreation Commission, which said the Parks and Recreation Department relied on nearly 1,000 volunteers each year to patrol parks, serve as sports coaches, help with events and many other tasks.
“We wanted to do it properly and be better organized, be better at recruiting. Volunteering is really helpful for city operations,” Trudgeon said. “Staff and council realized there were a lot of advantages for all the departments to supplement city services.”
Trudgeon added that several other metro-area cities, like Hopkins, employ volunteer coordinators, some of whom are part-time or volunteers themselves.
“We really wanted to make sure we had a level of expertise,” he said. “The position was looked upon very favorably [during the 2014 budget process], and [council] decided it was a priority.”
O’Brien, Trudgeon said, stood out from the candidates because her passion for volunteering was clear to see.
“She has a lot of dedication to the volunteer service industry,” he said. “She’s got some really great ideas, and she’s well organized. The first person in the position is always important, and I’ve been very pleased with what she’s done so far.”
O’Brien, who hails from Minneapolis, hit the ground running about a month ago. In just a few short weeks, she’s already created the first city initiative to expand its volunteer base.
“We’ll be having quarterly volunteer open houses starting this fall where current volunteers can talk to potential volunteers about what they can do for the city,” she explained. “It’ll be an opportunity for people to find out all kinds of things they can do in the city within different departments like police, fire, administration or accounting.”
The first open house is planned for the morning of Saturday, Sept. 19.
In the meantime, O’Brien has been meeting with city staff to determine how their departments could benefit from volunteer power.
“The city is a very tight operation,” O’Brien said. “There are some things that volunteers could do that would assist staff to be able to do more. I’ve been working with staff to identify where the needs are and do some out-of-the-box thinking about ways to engage volunteers that they maybe hadn’t thought about.”
Brainstorming ways for volunteers to help the city is essential, O’Brien said, but sometimes volunteers have a unique skill set that can be applied in unanticipated ways.
“We’re trying to identify how to meet people where they’re at with any schedule they may have,” she said. “Success comes when a volunteer is in a place where their talents are best utilized. There’s an opportunity for people to say, ‘This is what I want to get out of volunteering.’”
O’Brien mentioned a few places where volunteer engagement could be expanded, like staffing the desk at the Harriet Alexander Nature Center, assisting with clerical duties or park beautification in the spring.
Trudgeon also named a few areas where volunteers would be helpful, additionally highlighting work in the city’s parks.
“Special projects, filing at City Hall, organizing, research, inputting data, all of these would be very helpful,” he said. “The possibilities are endless. City operations will be better because of it.”
“It’s great that the city is embracing and engaging volunteers,” O’Brien said. “Roseville is ... very forward thinking to create a position to make infrastructure to support volunteerism.”
Johanna Holub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.