Let's Give a Big Hand to Those Giving Their Time


If someone handed you $40 million as a gift, what would you say?

“Wow! Thank you so much,” would hardly capture the depth of your gratitude.

That amount is roughly the dollar value the County gets each year from the combined efforts of its volunteers. Tens of thousands of people, donating their time to help us provide better services. We thank them all, and in a few weeks, our Board of Supervisors will hold its annual volunteer recognition event to express their appreciation. We quite simply could not do what we do without them.

And now – because we’re always looking for ways to do more at the County – we’re preparing for a big enhancement to our volunteer program, meant to put more of those resources at our disposal. We’ll soon be launching a website that will eventually bring all our volunteers into one centralized system.

The system will make it more efficient for department staff to review volunteer applicants, speeding up the process to get them started. It will make it easier for volunteers to search for and choose opportunities based on their area of interest. And if volunteers want to move from one program to another, they will already have a profile. The system will make it possible to do online scheduling, so both volunteers and department coordinators are literally working from the same page.

If we want people to offer us their time, we need to make it as easy as possible for them. In short, that’s what the system will help us do. We expect to get it rolling with a few departments by later this spring, then keep adding to those. 

There’s also more to the value of our volunteer program than what we can put into numbers. One of the County’s top goals is to create ways for residents to be engaged with their community. Volunteers want to feel they are doing something meaningful and making a difference. When we involve them in our work, we’re giving them a stake in that community and the opportunity to have a positive impact.

The experience builds their sense of connection, which is a goal of Thriving, one-third of our three-part Live Well vision for the County. Compared to the other two components, Healthy and Safe, Thriving has more aspects that go beyond basic needs and are sometimes intangible.

Think of the distinction we’re drawing when we use the expression “make a house a home.” One is simply a place. The other captures a complex set of feelings about your well-being. In the same way, we want San Diego to be more than a place people live – we want them thriving. Living a high-quality life.

For many people, volunteering is an important source of that kind of enrichment. So while our volunteers do help us in numerous ways, we’re also happy to give them opportunities for rewarding, thriving activity. I know managing a volunteer force that’s double the size of our regular employee workforce is no small task. My thanks to everyone who plays a part in recruiting, training and coordinating all our volunteers.

While I’m at it, let me also salute the volunteer spirit among all of you. I know many of you, on top of all you do in your County jobs, head off to spend time with countless charities, schools, sports teams, civic and faith organizations, and on and on, touching even more lives.

Then there’s all the pitching in you do on County efforts. The Point-in-Time Count of homeless peopleCECO. Our Employee Resource Groups. The Live Well 5K. Employee Poll Workers.

(Note on that last one – it’s that time again. We need you for the June and November elections. Details coming soon on InSite.)

None of these events or organizations would be as successful as they are without your participation. I thank all of you who’ve taken on those duties.

Going through all these examples of volunteerism is really inspiring. So many people pouring all that energy into so many causes, doing what they can to make San Diego better. I’m unbelievably proud to work in a place that is a hub for that positive force, and I’m excited we’ll soon have new tools empowering us to make our community even stronger.