Talbot County Department of Social Services Volunteer Program

By Sandra Zunino

Ask any of the Talbot County Department of Social Services (TCDSS) volunteers and they can tell you, the smallest contribution of time and energy can really make a difference in someone’s life.

The mission of the TCDSS is to assist people in economic need, protect children and vulnerable adults and promote the safety and well-being of the citizens of Talbot County. Not only are they a single point of information and referral of human services in Talbot County, the DSS administers several state and federal programs. 

In addition to financial programs such as Food Stamps or Emergency Assistance to Families with Children, they offer workforce support like Job Readiness/Job Placement classes, and child welfare services including parent education programs and child protective services.

Three years ago, the TCDSS
implemented the use of volunteers. The Volunteer Services Program currently has six active volunteers and seven new volunteer applicants who are in training. Volunteer assignments cover a wide range of duties.

 For those skilled in homework help there is tutoring. Here a volunteer works one-on-one with a child in the particular subject area where he or she feels most comfortable. An assignment may also involve coaching a student through a “self-taught” computer program of course material. Mentors are matched with teens or adults to encourage development of life-skills. 

In the Workforce Support Unit, volunteers help those seeking employment by coaching basic job-search skills such as using classified ads or computer searches, or they may teach resume writing or interview skills. 

Even volunteers with an interest in scrapbooking can put their talent to good use as “Lifebook” assistants. Working with a child who is in foster care, these volunteers create a photo-memory scrapbook that traces the child’s life. 

“Our biggest need is in the area of transportation,” according to Director April Sharp,   “Many of our customers don’t have transportation for appointments. Transportation to medical appointments, the grocery store or for errands provides a much-needed service.” These outings also provide socialization for those who live alone. Department volunteers receive training to prepare them to use agency vehicles.     

If special projects arise, volunteers may assist staff. One volunteer is helping to create an in-house library that can be used during supervised visits or with younger kids during parent meetings. Special projects and seasonal events are also opportunities for group volunteers from schools, churches or other organizations to lend a hand.

Most volunteers find they change because of the volunteer experience, according to Pat Murphy, the Volunteer Coordinator. “One young woman said she volunteered to find out more about Social Services and as a result decided to major in Social Work.” 

Nicole Chase, a college student who volunteers said that volunteering has definitely changed her. “”I want to get into the field of Social Work. Interacting with the kids and the adults has made me realize that I want to do that type of work every day.””

April says she greatly appreciates the volunteers and frequently likes to let them know the difference their help is making in a case. “We are very fortunate because not every Department of Social Services has a volunteer program.”  

April mentioned volunteers Kara Erskine and Marj Schaefer deserve special recognition for the tireless service they provide to the TCDSS.