October 9, 2010; Source: Contra Costa Times | If the number of job seekers in Northern California keeps growing, some may find it just as hard to find volunteer positions as fulltime work. According to the Contra Costa Times, the unemployed are flooding nonprofits in Marin County with their resumes.

The newspaper reports that volunteer activity across the county has increased between 20 to 50 percent, as more jobless or under-employed seek unpaid positions. “I’ve been here 30 years and I’ve not seen anything like this,” said Joan Brown, who coordinates public sector volunteers for Marin County. Brown says interest in volunteering has jumped at least 300 percent since the downturn began, measured by hundreds of applications she receives from out-of-work job seekers. “We just don’t have enough opportunities for all the people who are interested,” Brown said. “There are really outstanding, qualified people who I may not even be able to place.”

Some organizations are putting would-be volunteers on waiting lists until there is work for them to do. Nadine James-Ward, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, said her organization has turned away dozens of extra volunteers since starting the first of three Marin County projects earlier this year. For other organizations, volunteers are manna from heaven, as they scramble to meet rising demands for their services in the wake of declining revenues and cuts in government support.

Mary Kay Sweeney, executive director of the Homeward Bound Marin homeless shelter, said that in the past 18 months her organization has used about 200 new volunteers, including kitchen workers, gardeners, office administrators, and even psychotherapists. She calls these, and the other 1,000 volunteers, “the lifeblood” of hers and other nonprofits.

Others interviewed for the article don’t mind if the ranks of potential volunteers keep growing. They’re certain, that unless funding cuts are restored, more volunteers will be needed, especially to serve Marin County’s senior community. Linda Davis, CEO of the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, says that in the wake of Marin’s fast-growing aging community, she’s thankful that people “naturally want to give back.”—Bruce Trachtenberg