Caroline Allen oversees a brigade of 1,100 volunteers, and she’s on the prowl for more.
Allen is volunteer coordinator for Senior Friendship Centers in Sarasota, Manatee, Lee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.
“We wouldn’t exist without our volunteers,” she said.
Volunteers are involved in every aspect of the centers. “Last year we served 39,000 meals at noon on site,” she said.
That’s more than 100 per day, 365 days a year. And the center prepared and delivered 67,000 meals to homebound seniors.
All the departments use volunteers. Some are fully staffed, but Allen is looking for help in other areas. “We need dental hygienists, dental assistants and dentists for our clinic,” she said. “It is very difficult to find dentists to volunteer. Doctors seem to want to be doctors, but not dentists.”
The health care clinic at the center uses the help of 219 volunteers.
She noted the Senior Friendship Center in Venice is desperate for a computer instructor. “We have a waiting list there for people who need help,” she said.
Another program she’s trying to staff with volunteers is “Friendships at Home,” where a volunteer is matched with a homebound individual. The volunteer is a weekly visit by a friendly face. Allen is expanding the program to send visitors to local nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Allen is trying to find volunteers to work with people facing mental health challenges. It would use a similar “friendly visit” technique. Many of the volunteer positions at the Senior Friendship Center require training and even a background check.
Right now the Sarasota Center is looking for drivers on Wednesdays and Thursdays to deliver meals. It also needs a writing class facilitator.
At the R.L. Taylor Community Center in north Sarasota, there is need for a sewing instructor and a scrapbook class instructor.
Sarasota’s Senior Friendship Center is located north of Mound Street Luke Wood Park, and south of downtown. If you have any interest in volunteering, call Caroline Allen at 556-3249.