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First Library Volunteer Fair a Success

Local nonprofit agencies and volunteers connected at inaugural fair.

Approximately 20 nonprofit agencies set up shop in Northport Library on Friday as people of all ages and interests perused volunteer opportunities.

Many attendees were students looking for community service hours, such as Northport High School Senior Anna Drewitz, who was looking for a volunteer opportunity for her Sea Scouts project. An opportunity with Friends of the Farm interested her. "They want a duck pond that'll drain quickly," she said. "Right now they're using a kiddie pool."

Local organizations like Friends of the Farm dominated the fair. Other attendees included The Family Service League of Huntington, the Suffolk Jewish Y, the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum, and the Northport Historical Society.

Vicki Amato of the League for Animal Protection of Huntington was there speaking to people about cat and dog adoptions. "We have a long list of kittens on the list that we can't take in because the Town buidling has closed for cats," she said. "We have 95 in-house, our capacity's 75, so we're telling people that we'll give them a free certificate to spay and neuter, release, and feed them."

The Animal League has volunter opportunities year round, especially when it comes to cleaning, though volunteering with dogs requires a special orientation with the Town.

Diana O'Neill, Executive Director of Long Island Volunteer Center, set up a booth at the fair to direct people to her organization's database of volunteer opprotunities across Long Island. She said connecting volunteers to nonprofits is vital to sustaining an industry that has been badly affected by cuts from all levels.

"Nonprofit agencies throughout Long Island could not exist without volunteers. Their importance cannot be understated," said O'Neill. "Many are the backbone of these agencies. Without the assistance of volunteers they wouldn't be able to offer vital programs, programs that assist at-risk communities, that help children, that address the environment, programs that address the well-being of society as a whole."

Youth Directions and Alternatives (YDA), a nonprofit youth counseling agency serving Northport and East Northport, is just the type of organization O'Neill is talking about. YDA Director Rod Miller said that his organization is looking for adult volunteers to join the Board of Directors to help support and represent the agency in the community, advocate, get involved with fundraisers, and chaparone at public events.

He said there are also plenty of opportunities for kids. "High school kids can volunteer as tutors for the middle school kids," he said. "For the middle school kids there is something called the community impact team if they're interested in doing community service projects to support other nonprofits in the East northport-Northport community such as Little Shelter or the Visiting Nurse Service."

One of the main barriers between volunteers and nonprofits is that people often don't know where to start looking for opportunities, continued Diana O'Neill, who reccommended that people consult Long Island Volunteer Center for a thorough list of organizations looking for volunteers.

"Once you get your foot into the volunteer industry," she said, "you'll never go back.

Do you volunteer? Did you go to the volunteer fair? Tell us in the comment section below.

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