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VOLUNTEERS SHOP FOR A PLACE TO HELP

Like typical teenage girls, Angie Jaeger and Ashley Morin took advantage of Saturday's warm and sunny weather to go shopping.

But instead of trekking to a suburban mall to check out clothes, the Grand Island High School juniors came downtown to Volunteer Fair 2005, hoping to sign up for unpaid jobs with a nonprofit organization. They were most interested, Ashley said, in human services work -- "helping people who need help."

The quest took the honor students to a table staffed by Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled, one of nearly 40 organizations taking part in the first-of-its-kind job fair in the WNED-TV studios.

Ashley and Angie listened intently as Rebecca Kingsley, herself an Americorps VISTA volunteer who is working to recruit helpers for the community agency, explained short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities.

People able to put in 24 hours or less can assist with special events or visit with clients as part of a Day Habilitation program, Kingsley told them. Those interested in volunteering more time -- usually adults and seniors -- may be trained to take after-hours telephone calls, mentor children, parents and seniors, or help with recreation and leisure programs.

Organizers of Volunteer Fair 2005 were heartened by two things -- the enthusiasm of more than 100 prospective volunteers who lined up at the door waiting for the four-hour information session to begin, and the presence of eager-to-get-involved young people like Angie and Ashley.

It is never too soon in life to start taking matters into your own hands -- a point driven home by city and county budget crises that have decimated nonprofit cultural and human services groups -- said Carol Bronnenkant, Volunteer Fair co-chairwoman.

"If people know there is a need, they will respond," observed Bronnenkant, whose volunteer credentials include the Darwin D. Martin House, Graycliff and Corpus Christi Church preservation campaigns.

Despite Kingsley's convincing pitch, Angie Jaeger and Ashley Morin were in no hurry to buy. They planned to browse for other opportunities before deciding where to apply their energies.

Angie, who in the past has volunteered at the Buffalo Museum of Science and soup kitchens, headed for a table set up by Friends of the Night People, an Allentown food pantry.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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