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Their Gift is Their Time

Tena DeVries, right, Alberta Ainsworth, left, Frank Gritzan and Judy Ingram help wash and bag fresh chard as produce arrives. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Tena DeVries, right, Alberta Ainsworth, left, Frank Gritzan and Judy Ingram help wash and bag fresh chard as produce arrives. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

Valerie Tachenko volunteers more hours than she wants to count.

As the president of the Greater Baker Food Co-Op board of directors, and department head of the co-op produce section, she spends hours upon hours at the store on 10th Street.

And she's not the only one.

The Co-Op is membership owned and operated, with nearly 200 volunteer hours logged each month.

"I think it's awesome," Tachenko said during a rush on delivery day.

"We're the only co-op left in the Northwest that's all volunteers. And we have a range — moms with brand new babies to grandmas who are 90 years old."

The Co-Op is just one of many volunteer-driven organizations in Baker County.

The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center depends on about 40 active volunteers to assist operations at the Center, said NHOTIC volunteer coordinator Pam Petterson.

"There is no way that we could do all of this with just our little staff," she said.

The volunteers are organized as Trail Tenders Inc., a non-profit group formed during the planning stages for NHOTIC. The group acts as a liaison between the community and the Bureau of Land Management, Petterson said.

Trail Tender volunteers appear throughout the Center, clothed in period dress as roving interpreters, greeting visitors at the door, performing historical interpretations, and helping organize special events.

Volunteers also run the gift shop, arranging staff schedules and helping stock the shelves. And, since the Trail Tenders are non-profit, all the money earned from sales stay at the Center.

"All that money goes back to the Interpretive Center for education and visitor services," Petterson said.

Even more Trail Tenders work behind the scenes, building the NHOTIC newsletter, distributing the monthly events calendar and picking up litter on the trails and Highway 86.

In 2002, Petterson said the volunteers logged 9,500 hours.

"The value of their work is about $146,000," she said. "They are really beneficial and we couldn't do as much without them."

For more information about becoming a Trail Tender, call Petterson at 523-1835.

Each year, as many as 100 Baker County children receive help from volunteers through the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program.

Currently there are 24 CASAs working with 35 kids, said Mary Collard, CASA director.

"There's only one paid staff member. Everything else is completely run by volunteers," she said.

CASA volunteers are appointed by a judge to represent the interests of abused and neglect children. Through the course of an individual case, volunteers investigate the child's history by talking with the child, parents, family members and teachers and reviewing important documents and records.

Then the advocate makes a recommendation to the judge about what decision is in the child's best interest.

If you're interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, there will be a training in the fall. The initial training course is 30 hours, and volunteers must complete a 10-hour refresher course each year after that.

"We are always looking for new volunteers," Collard said.

She said that the program is about a two-year commitment, which is how long some cases can last, and they try to avoid switching case volunteers.

"These children — one of the things they need is stability," Collard said.

For more information about CASA, call the office at 523-5801, or stop by the office in the E.S.D. building at 2100 Main St.

The following organizations are also seeking volunteers:

o American Red Cross, Eastern Oregon Chapter, 523-2231. Volunteers needed for health and safety instruction, blood service, board of directors, office assistant, fund-raising volunteers, disaster services and Armed Forces emergency services caseworkers.

o Baker County Prevention and Education Center mentoring program, 524-2135

o Crossroads Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, 523-5369

o Baker Community Concert, contact Dru at 523-3124 or Joyce at 523-4863

o Community Connection, contact Mary Jo Carpenter, 523-6591

o Community Literacy, contact Bob Evans, 523-6419

o Calling on Moms, contact Danae Simonski, 523-9520

o Community Human Services, Marilyn Jones, 524-1800, ext. 403

o MayDay Inc., 523-9472

o Good Samaritan Ministries Outreach, 523-3933

o Lifespan of Baker County, 523-6591

o Oregon Trail Regional Museum, contact Chary Mires, 523-9308

o Pathway Hospice, 523-9430

o St. Elizabeth Hospital Auxiliary, call Sandy Driscoll at 523-4046 or Joyce Hindman at 523-7050

o The Salvation Army, 523-5853

o Northeast Oregon Compassion Center, 523-9845

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