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Adapting to Cleanup and Volunteer Changes

At the Keep Texas Beautiful Conference, we held a panel discussion on Adapting to Cleanup and Volunteer Changes in an Ever-Evolving Time. Cindy Harris was on this panel and shared how her community of Grapevine is adjusting in these times. Hear more from Cindy Harris on the success of safe and socially distanced events in Grapevine. 

Keeping Volunteers Safe at No-contact Events

To say these are strange times is an understatement. I think it's fair to say that as KTB affiliates, most of us rely on volunteers to execute programs. Many of our projects and events have been on hold for the last few months, but as we cautiously emerge from quarantine and re-engage volunteers, how should that be done with care and intentionality? I think answering these questions can provide some guidance:

  1. Does leadership support the re-instatement of volunteer projects?
  2. How do we create contactless supply pick up?
  3. Will your work sites have sufficient space for social distancing and do you have a team leader that is comfortable being on-site (if necessary)?
  4. Because volunteer turn-out may be low, will the time and resources put toward planning and execution be worthwhile?

Let's look at question 1. Does leadership support the re-instatement of volunteer projects?

Depending on the structure or your affiliate, it is critical that your leaders support resuming volunteer participation. Our organization partners with Grapevine Parks and Recreation Department (GPARD). The Executive Director and Board have supported keeping programs aligned with GPARD's recommencing of services. Additionally, we have cleared all details of project implementation with the City's Risk Department.

Question 2: How do we create contactless supply pick up?

Our leadership and Board agreed that a no-contact supply pick up was best. Our Municipal Service Center has a circle driveway, which is an ideal location. As volunteers pull into the drive, a board member with a mask and gloves checks off the volunteer's name and asks where supplies should be placed in their vehicle. We are able to provide five sets of nitrile gloves, five trash bags, and a disinfected grabber for each volunteer. We allowed volunteers to keep any leftover bags and gloves to use for future volunteer efforts.

Question 3: Do work sites have sufficient space for social distancing and is there a team leader that is comfortable being on-site (if necessary)?

All jobs should take place in open spaces where volunteers from different households can safely work at least six feet apart as suggested by the CDC guidelines. Litter pick up projects may not require oversight at the park or area; we allow those volunteers to work without supervision. Last month we used a group of volunteers from the same company on a painting project. It was a simple project with few supplies and was led by a Board member. All volunteers were able to work at least six feet apart and felt safe.

We've also resumed shoreline cleanup. Kayaks were disinfected before use and on project day. The team leader was given disinfecting wipes. All volunteers were instructed to arrive in mask and stay six feet apart. Kayaks were disbursed one at a time.

Question 4: Because volunteer turn-out may be low, will the time and resources put toward planning and execution be worthwhile?

If you have little to no volunteer interest, it may not be strategic to resume events and projects. However, even if volunteers are inquiring, you can expect less-than-normal turn-out. Consider the best outcome of a project, then compare it to the amount of time it takes to promote, plan, and execute. Is the best outcome worth it? We determined it was. It is important during this time to keep volunteers engaged and encouraged. Maintaining volunteer engagement keeps us from having to start from scratch when the new normal unfolds. For example, at our first event in June, only seven volunteers participated. Out of those seven, one represented a corporate sponsor. She introduced herself to another volunteer that happens to work for the same company. They were thrilled to get to know each other and to learn that they share a common passion to improve the environment. That connection made, and the good-will that was created through the project was worthwhile to us.

Let me emphasize, while our affiliate has chosen to resume volunteerism, all precautions and restrictions are keenly observed. We do not create settings where volunteers are asked to work closer than six feet of one another and thoroughly explain all precautions that will be taken. We love what we do and want to continue to be a source of betterment for the community, while still protecting volunteers.

Blog post written by Cindy Harris, Volunteer Services Liaison with Keep Grapevine Beautiful. 


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