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Volunteerism in POLK By Elizabeth Morrisey | Photos by Andrea Cruz


ince 1992, Barb Norton has been volunteering her time to different organizations in Winter Haven. From the Chamber of Commerce to Theatre Winter Haven to the police department and Bok Tower, she’s a Jane of all trades when it comes to giving back.

“I have to be involved,” the 83-year-old says. “I can’t just sit around. I like to be out and know what’s going on.” Her parents instilled in her to work hard and be active in the community. Norton’s longest stint was volunteering at the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce for 16 years helping out at the front desk. “It’s important because you are giving back,” she explains. “You get acquainted with the community. The area needs lots of volunteers.” Those looking for ways to find Polk County volunteer opportunities can turn to Volunteer Polk, a county funded program designed to pair volunteers with non-profit partners. “We are the eHarmony of volunteerism,” says Janet Bartuska, manager of Volunteer Polk. “Our goal is to help improve the quality of life for those who live, work and play in Polk County.” Local residents young and old can log onto the website and scroll through close to 100 listings. Some

organizations include local schools, Meals on Wheels, Circle B Nature Preserve, the Red Cross, museums and food pantries. “It’s a one-stop-shop,” Bartuska says. “These groups are looking for someone who is passionate about their mission and willing to work as a team.” Bartuska says the listings change weekly and locals can call the office to inquire about something specific. There are benefits to having all of the listings in one spot. “When someone looks, they get lots of ideas,” she says. “There is a smorgasbord of opportunities.” Guardian Ad Litem is in desperate need of community volunteers, says the local Recruitment Coordinator Diane Schmelz. The Polk County area has 700 volunteers, but it’s not enough when there are 2,000 children needing assistance. Continued on page 14

Left: Barb Norton sits on the steps of the Pinewood Estate of Bok Tower Gardens, where she works as a volunteer docent on Wednesdays. Right: A tourist from North Carolina, left, listens to Norton explain details of the reception room at Bok Tower Gardens’ Pinewood Estate.


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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