Opportunities to volunteer numerous, easy to find

By REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — Every Tuesday morning at 7:15, in the back room of the Blue Ribbon restaurant, Niskayuna Rotary member Lon Penna opens meetings with a few inspirational quotes.

At the most recent meeting, he echoed Edward McHale, an American author.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something,” he said. “I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Sitting around a table filled with hot breakfast entrees, in the shadow of a tall American flag, the Rotary members nodded.

The Niskayuna Rotary is one of several hubs for volunteers and philanthropists in town. Weekly meetings usually feature a local person who improves the community, from wildlife photographers to volunteer coordinators.

The group’s connection to local nonprofit organizations makes its meetings, which are open to the public, a great place to start for new volunteers.

“It’s finding these places where you can connect with others,” Rotary member Derek Lecakes said.

The group is full of advice for people who haven’t donated their time to local organizations before but are looking for an opportunity.

“If people only have time to volunteer for one thing, do something with kids,” Penna said. “That’s where the need is greatest.”

He suggested parent-teacher organizations, school-related volunteer work and youth sports coaching.

“The thing that Rotary does is it connects them with the community,” he said.

It’s also a solid option for those looking to do good internationally, since Rotary has branches in 200 countries. The Niskayuna branch has worked with Pakistani Rotaries in the past and is currently working to send school supplies to a Rotary in Malawi.

Niskayuna’s town offices are also a great place to seek volunteer opportunities. Lori Peretti oversees the Office of Community Programs. She suggests coaching fall sports, especially soccer, which had 52 teams and 74 volunteer coaches and assistants in 2014, as well as volunteering at the Senior Center, greeting members and doing other work.

Though the fall soccer program is over for this season, Peretti said the town is always looking for people to commit to coaching positions for future seasons.

“At certain levels, we’re pounding the pavement looking for volunteers,” she said.

Increasing participation would decrease the burden on some of the coaches, who often commit to multiple teams to make sure all the athletes are being cared for.

“Some of these parents are there all morning on Saturday mornings, from 8:30 to 12:30,” Peretti said.

Town Supervisor Joe Landry said he’s grateful for volunteers, and town employees are ready to help residents find meaningful opportunities.

“We always ask them where they want to be and what they want to do, and we can help them out,” he said.

Even a small time commitment is welcomed by local organizations. Denise Leader, president of the Niskayuna Community Action Program, said with so many opportunities available, it can be tough to fill positions. N-CAP has several opportunities, including two empty Niska-Day committee seats, which would involve helping to plan the May 2015 community day festivities.

“We’re struggling with that right at the moment,” she said. “It seems harder and harder to find people to come and help out.”

How to help

Whatever your area of interest, there’s a volunteer opportunity for you in Niskayuna. Here are just a few, listed by subject:

EDUCATION: Parent-teacher organizations organize important events at each of Niskayuna’s schools. To find contact information for your child’s PTO, visit http://niskypto.org.

  • Classroom volunteers and district committee members are always needed to help throughout the Niskayuna Central School District. Volunteers do not have to be parents of students. Opportunities include in-school work like reading to students, as well as work with the Board of Education, such as participating in the search for a new superintendent of schools. To volunteer in a school, contact a school principal. To help with the search for a new superintendent, visit www.niskayunaschools.org/SuptSearch.

ENVIRONMENT: The Environmental Clearinghouse, ECOS, always has opportunities available for nature guides, educational presenters, newsletter writers, committee members and board members. Visit http://ecosny.org/contact-ecos for more information.

EVENT PLANNING: Join the Niska-Day committee.

COMMUNITY: The Niskayuna Rotary Club always welcomes new members. It meets Tuesdays at 7:15 a.m. at the Blue Ribbon Restaurant on State Street in Schenectady.

  • The Schenectady Jewish Community Center on Balltown Road is always looking for volunteers in a variety of roles. Learn more at 377-8803.

HEALTH: Volunteers are needed at Bellevue Woman’s Center, 2210 Troy-Schenectady Road, Niskayuna, to help with light office work and attend to the gift shop. Learn more at http://ellismedicine.org or contact the Volunteer Services Department at 243-4009.

PHILANTHROPY: The Niskayuna Community Foundation is an affiliate of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region. The local branch is the only philanthropic organization to focus solely on the Niskayuna community. To learn more, email info@niskayunacf.org or call 935-7899.

SENIOR CITIZENS: The Niskayuna Senior Center on Aqueduct Road seeks volunteers to greet seniors and perform other helpful tasks. To find out about opportunities, call coordinators Rosemarie Mullaney or Cindy Desso at 372-4969.

SPORTS: The town’s fall soccer program is over for this year, but it’s already seeking future coaches. Hundreds of children enroll each year, and in 2014 there were over 70 coaches and assistant coaches. To help out, call Lori Peretti at 386-4526.

STUDENTS: Service clubs are available at every level. At the high school, for example, students can join Niskayuna Inter-Community Service or Key Club to gain experience with community service. A full listing is available at http://niskyschools.org.

Is your organization in Niskayuna or Schenectady’s North Side seeking volunteers? Email risenhart@dailygazette.net or call 395-3191 to be added to the online version of this list. Readers, check http://yourniskayuna.com for additional volunteer opportunities, to be updated often.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.