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'Volunteer is a verb' | Keeping the Volunteer spirit alive past the holidays

Is there such a thing as too many volunteers in East Tennessee during the holidays? Or are there too few for the rest of the year?
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — 'Tis almost the season -- and as any nonprofit coordinator knows, that season comes with countless requests to volunteer. 

But is there such a thing as too many volunteers? For Executive Director Alyson Gallaher of Volunteer East Tennessee, volunteers are always welcome -- but there's more to it than that. 

"You know, 'tis the season, right?" Gallaher said. "And whether it's in a business setting, at your office, or at your family, it's the time of year when people want to give back. It makes sense, and it feels good during the holiday season."

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Gallaher sees a significant increase in volunteers from Thanksgiving through Christmas. And sometimes, the sudden influx of holiday-only volunteers can be too much for area nonprofits.

"Any nonprofit or community organization would say that volunteers are always welcome, but there is a significant increase. They can't always keep up with that demand," Gallaher said.

Gallaher said many volunteers go for the most popular holiday programs, like soup kitchens and gift drives. But many other organizations also need volunteers, such as support hotlines and nursing homes. 

"If there is something that concerns you, that weighs heavily on your heart, that keeps you up at night, there is someone in this community who is working on it. And there is an opportunity to serve alongside them," Gallaher said.

For Terry Mosley, that opportunity is at Sarah Moore Greene Elementary School. He and his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers started mentoring 5th grade boys.

"People don’t stop needing help and uplift after the holidays," Mosley said. "They don’t just need it during the holidays."

Credit: WBIR

Mosley said the boys' attendance has improved. He and his fraternity brothers try to lift the boys up -- and teach them to lift up others.

"There are messages there that are geared toward team work, towards brotherhood, towards lifting your brother up," Mosley said.

Volunteer East Tennessee connects potential volunteers with almost 90 nonprofits around Knoxville. Gallaher said there's no shortage of options for any age group, location or cause. It's all about finding the nonprofit for you.

In the state of the Volunteers, Gallaher said, there's a real love for the community -- and a real determination to give back.

"I mean, we are the home of the volunteers, truly," Gallaher said. "And I think that spirit is very much alive and well in our community. Volunteer is a verb, it's not just a noun. We may think it's wearing orange on game day, but it's way more than that. It is serving our community and giving back to a place that affords us a really wonderful way of life."

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