The city relies on citizens who volunteer their time to help everything from the police department to the library system run smoothly.
CLEARWATER – Volunteers are vital components of any city, as citizens who donate their time to community departments and organizations help alleviate spending as well as cut down on the workloads of civic employees.
Clearwater is one such city that greatly benefits from a large legion of volunteers; according to officials, approximately 3,170 citizens offered their time and support to City of Clearwater volunteer programs last year, with an estimated value of $1,329,274.24 and totaling 57,811 hours of service.
This week is National Volunteer Week, and officials from various civic departments want to let it be known how much they appreciate their volunteers who sacrifice their time for the betterment of the community while expecting nothing in return.
“Volunteers were always vital for the library, but after budget reductions caused the loss of staff and hours, they have become lifesavers,” Library Director Barbara Pickell said. “The library cannot operate without their help and provide quality community service.”
Volunteers are especially helpful to Clearwater’s Parks and Recreation department due to the large number of facilities, programs and special events the city handles.
In fact more than 3,000 people offered volunteer assistance in the 2012/13 fiscal year to Parks & Recreation, and a total of 40,221 hours were performed by those volunteers at a monetary value of $890,493.
“It is very humbling to our staff that the greater Clearwater community would support the parks and recreation system at this volume of their own personal time to reinvest back into their community,” department director Kevin Dunbar said.
“We wouldn’t be able to host so many successful events, tournaments, and projects without the help of our volunteers,” added Krystal Epperson, Volunteer Coordinator for Parks & Recreation.
One person who volunteers countless hours to a variety of causes in the city is 62-year-old Dunedin resident Stephen Palm.
Palm has been volunteering his whole life, starting with the Boy Scouts in the Northeast, and he has continued that service here, working with the Clearwater Parks and Rec department for the last five years.
He said nothing is quite as satisfying as donating time, and in his case, blood, for a cause that he believes in.
“One of the benefits of volunteering is you are surrounded by like-minded, compassionate people who care more about their community and the world around them than they do themselves,” Palm, who has also donated 40 gallons of platelets to date, said. “And the Clearwater volunteer coordinators are fabulous people and absolute joys to work with, so it makes it a fun experience.”
“People always say ‘you’re so great for doing this,’ but everything I do I get repaid a million times over,” he added. “The emotional gratification I get from helping people, if you don’t get something out of that, you’re not human.”
With the city in the midst of celebrating its volunteers, Mayor George Cretekos might have put it best when describing how important these selfless citizens are to the community.
“The Clearwater City Council is especially proud of its volunteers and the service they provide to residents and visitors,” the mayor said. “Their dedication not only saves tax dollars, it promotes that quality of life that makes Clearwater ‘sparkle.’”