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Ready to lend a hand? City volunteer coordinator is ready for your call

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For the city of Red Wing, volunteer efforts usually peak during the summer. This year, as the city heads into that busy time of year, they will have a little help coordinating all those volunteers.

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Lori Brandl is the city's first paid volunteer coordinator.

"It's a chance for me to combine the needs of our community in our parks and our gardens, and bring together the passions of our volunteers," she said.

The city added the 12-hour-a-week position about two months ago to keep volunteer opportunities available to people, to maintain year-round contact with the volunteers and to help potential volunteers figure out how they can serve the city, said Roger Seymour, the city employee services director.

Brandl, who also works 14 hours a week for the Fire Department, said hours in her new capacity are proving a great way to get to know citizens.

"Everybody has a different skills set, some people are really great with something else and we can make that match," Brandl said.

People can contact her directly if they have any questions about the different positions available to them.

"We'd just hate to see someone in a position where it's really not working and the flowers are dying or something," Seymour said.

The position also involves contacting current volunteers to "make sure they're going to do it and to help them understand what they're going to do," Seymour explained.

Volunteers are vital to helping maintain Red Wing's civic amenities because when budgets tightened a few years ago due to state aid cuts, the city lost 20-some employees, according to Seymour.

That is when he said he noticed an increase in volunteers who were helping keep the parks as nice as they had previously been.

"The volunteers have really stepped up these last several years," Seymour said.

"Their dedication and passion is solely based on their commitment to the city. They expect nothing in return, only to see the better of the city," Brandl said.

The city currently doesn't know how many volunteers it has or how many hours they have volunteered.

"That is something we do want to track because we really don't have an idea of the number of hours or what people do help out," Seymour said. He and Blandl plan on trying to gather those numbers.

Previously, the city tried to use volunteers to coordinate volunteer efforts. But Seymour said since the position requires a large commitment, most people could not keep doing it. The other plan was to have seasonal staff step into this role during the summer. It was really tough to get the continuity with the position structured that way, he said.

Since the paid part-time position was created, Seymour said that things have been running a lot smoother.

Brandl said her goal for volunteers is pretty simple: "Bring them together to help them serve in the community, for those who have been doing that for years and those that are interested in doing it but haven't had a chance."

Blandl directs anyone who is interested in volunteering to the city's website (www.red-wing.org/volunteering/html). There, they can find descriptions of the different positions people can volunteer for.

Seymour said volunteers are important to Red Wing.

"They really help us out in keeping Red Wing beautiful," he said.

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