By Katie Murdoch For The Herald
LYNNWOOD — Amid budget cuts and staff reductions, the need for volunteers in Lynnwood is at an all-time high.
Lynnwood Senior Center volunteers have stepped up to that challenge, taking on responsibilities beyond the typical duties of previous volunteers by leading knitting classes or teaching older adults how to use their technical gadgets.
“We couldn’t run this agency without volunteers,” recreation supervisor Mary-Anne Grafton said.
The Lynnwood Senior Center, located at 19000 44th Ave. W., is a community center for people ages 62 and older. Budget reductions during the past three years meant reducing operating hours along with cutting programs and reducing its staff by half.
Last year, more than 80 volunteers clocked thousands of volunteer hours, and those numbers are likely underreported, Grafton said. In previous years, the center had roughly 50 volunteers per year.
Volunteers have stepped in to work the front desk, prepare food, instruct classes and facilitate activities.
“They have provided invaluable help with programs and services we have been forced to eliminate,” said Lynn Sordel, the city’s Parks, Recreation &Cultural Arts Department director. “Our senior volunteers are a fun group and they have incredible spirit and commitment to our services.”
The senior center is a crucial resource worth devoting time to, volunteer Sharon Lightner said. So many seniors are alone because they are widowed or their family isn’t nearby, Lightner said. “People need that camaraderie and to be around people, otherwise they’ll dry up and wait to pass away,” she said.
After retiring from a career in customer service, Lightner, of Mountlake Terrace, found herself making friends at the senior center; she started volunteering four years ago. She’s greeted people at the front desk and taught card- and jewelry-making classes. Her computers skills have stayed sharp — and she’s filled her need to talk to people.
“I enjoy the people,” she said. “I get to do the things I like.”
Grafton, the center director, uses people’s skills and work experience, such as preparing reports or data entry, to help find the right task fit.
“One thing I’ve learned about older adults is they come in with a wealth of experience and skills,” Grafton said.
Volunteering is not free labor, she added. Volunteers put in a tremendous amount of effort and time to help offer quality programs, she said.
“It’s unfair to put them in a job and not train nor prepare or recognize them,” Grafton said.
Sordel agreed: “We would like them to know how much we sincerely appreciate their remarkable skills which help us build our community and enhance to our quality of life.”