Give a little, give a lot

By: Elizabeth Scussel | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 23, 2014

 Volunteer Chuck Pokriefka delivers food to homebound seniors through the Meals on Wheels program, which is organized by the Bloomfield Township Senior Center. The center and many other places around Bloomfield are always looking for volunteers.

Volunteer Chuck Pokriefka delivers food to homebound seniors through the Meals on Wheels program, which is organized by the Bloomfield Township Senior Center. The center and many other places around Bloomfield are always looking for volunteers.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS/BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — For those interested in lending a hand and giving back to the community, volunteer opportunities are booming for Bloomfield residents.

One option is the Oakland Literacy Council. The OLC is a public service organization that provides free basic reading and English language instruction to adults in Oakland County.

The OLC — which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year — currently has 300 tutors paired with 300 students, but is always on the lookout for new talent.

“A lot of people think there’s no literacy problem in Oakland County. But the illiteracy rate is somewhere between 12 and 15 percent. Last year, we saw a 20 percent increase in new student attendance,” said Julie Hoensheid, literacy services coordinator and tutor trainer at the OLC.

Hoensheid explained that the OLC can appeal to the whole gamut, with students anywhere from 18 to 80 years old, and tutors from 18 to 92.

Those interested in volunteering at the OLC must be older than 18 and live, work or attend school in Oakland County. Eleven hours of training is required for volunteers, and flexible schedules are  based on city of residence and availability.

The OLC is located at 2550 S. Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Hills. More information for tutoring can be found at www.oak landliteracy.com.

The OLC is also inviting the community to its first annual Wild About Reading Charity Walk at the Detroit Zoo Sept. 6 to raise funds and awareness for adult literacy.

Another place in need of volunteers is the Bloomfield Township Senior Center. Volunteer positions include office and clerical, adult day services and assistance with special events.

Currently, the center is in need of drivers to assist seniors with errands and make Meals on Wheels deliveries.

“Meals on Wheels is a great service because our drivers also do a security check on the seniors receiving the meals. The drivers deliver more than a meal; they deliver peace of mind,” said Joan Patzelt, deputy director of senior services and volunteer coordinator at the BTSC. “We just ask that applicants have a valid Michigan driver’s license and valid insurance.”

The process to apply at the BTSC includes a basic application, a criminal background check, an interview and training. Applicants must be township residents.

“It’s very rewarding for our volunteers,” Patzelt said. “A lot of volunteers come to us because they have a family member using our services, or they’re recently retired and looking for something to do, or they know they’ll need our services in the future. But a lot of people just want to pay it forward, and they’re rewarded by their experiences with residents. It really gives a sense of multi-generational community.”

The Bloomfield Township Senior Center is located at 4315 Andover Road in Bloomfield Township. For more information on volunteering at the BTSC, call (248) 723-3500 or visit www.bloomfieldtwp.org.

The Bloomfield Township Public Library is also in need of volunteers. Assistant Director Tera Moon explained that township residents who are interested in volunteering are welcome to stop in anytime.

“We have high school students volunteering, Boy Scout troops, Girl Scout troops and adults,” Moon said. “Last month, 71 volunteers worked on various projects at various times at the library, and 13 of those volunteers were students. Our numbers vary depending on folks’ availability.”

Moon explained that students who volunteer for school community service must be township residents. And except for summer reading and book sales, the students must be in high school.

The volunteer process at the BTPL includes filling out an application and taking a short clerical test to ensure literacy and competency. The applications are given to the volunteer coordinator, and as projects come up at the library, volunteers are called upon.

Tasks at the library include working as a clerk in the library store, digitizing materials and greeting patrons.

Also in need of volunteers is the Friends of the Bloomfield Township Public Library. Volunteers are needed year-round to sort donated materials, price books, assist at their monthly sales and straighten books.

The BTPL is located at 1099 Lone Pine Road in Bloomfield Township. For more information on volunteering, call (248) 642-5800 or visit www.btpl.org.