Page 14

Volunteerism in POLK, continued from pg. 9

Guardian Ad Litem provides volunteer advocates to help become a voice for children who have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. The local office provides training each month. “It’s really not as overwhelming as people may think,” says Schmelz. “The average case requires seven to eight hours per month. These kids need someone to care.” Gabby Biernat, a senior at Southeastern University in Lakeland, began volunteering with Guardian Ad Litem as a freshman when she needed field experience for a class. “I have a huge desire to serve people and understand people who are different from me and love them,” she says. “It’s a desire, not an obligation.” As a double major in criminal justice and legal studies, she found it interesting that Guardian Ad Litem worked with the court system. The trained volunteers are appointed by judges to be advocates for the children. She feels a lot of Southeastern students are seeing how important it is to give back to the community. Volunteers come from all walks of life, and are young and old. Bartuska says Volunteer Polk is a great resource for middle and high school students


March / April 2017

who need volunteer hours and academic credit. “Shopping online (for volunteer opportunities) is so convenient. You don’t have to go and make 60 phone calls.” And Polk definitely likes to give back. In fact, the county has almost 2,500 volunteers in a variety of programs. Those volunteers contributed 50,086 hours throughout the past year and their work was valued at more than $1.1 million, says Bartuska. “Where volunteerism Barb Norton, left, and Judy McCoombs, volunteers with the Citizen Volunteer Unit for the Winter Haven Police Department, take a break while on patrol at a local festival. Photo by Sergio Cruz of The 863 Magazine,



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is strong, you find strong communities,” Bartuska says. “We see it every day. Volunteers impact every phase of life in Polk County. We are all coming to together to help each other. It is the fundamentals our country is based on.”

The 863 Magazine - March & April 2017  

Hollis Garden's History; Volunteerism in Polk; Canvas Creations; The 5 A's for Restoring Integrity; Non-Profit Spotlight: Talbot House. The...

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