Warren County may soon be facing a volunteer vacuum.
According to Farley Wright, director of Experience, Inc., his organization's portion of funding for two of Warren County's active volunteer organizations is no longer financially feasible, but is hoping to keep the programs afloat on a shoestring budget anyway.
Due to cuts in other funding sources for Experience, which serves as Warren County's Area Agency on Aging, block grant funding can no longer be allocated to support the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) and Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).
"It's just money," Wright said. "We are in a very difficult environment financially right now. We've gone through a number of reductions recently and, unfortunately, the YVC is one of them."
According to Wright and RSVP Director Susan Himes, as of Jan. 1, the director's position for YVC has been cut. Volunteer programs' field coordinator position funding was also cut.
"YVC and RSVP are both dedicated to developing volunteer programs and typically piggyback on another program," Wright said. "Unfortunately, where one (program) goes, so does the other. We have had the good fortune to host both the YVC and RSVP programs and when the cuts happened to the waiver reimbursements (a primary source of funding for agencies on aging), it cut deep."
According to Wright, state waiver funding dropped from approximately $1.2 million to $500,000. He noted the previous, higher, waiver funding allowed Experience to utilize block grant funding to help support volunteer programs. The funding, he said, must now be funneled to primary services.
Despite the cuts, Himes is currently coordinating a reduced program in the hopes of keeping the 17-year-old program alive.
"We're looking for volunteers to step forward to take leadership roles," Himes said, "to keep the YVC going on a bare bones budget using the funding we get from Northwest Savings Bank. We're just trying to keep the programs going on the bare minimum. We're taking things one step at a time."
Wright noted the positive impact experts say volunteer programs have on communities and on individual behavior.
"After the events in Connecticut, the experts say we need to be building community and that's what these programs are designed for," Wright said, "and here we are cutting them. It's the kind of thing that happens in a contentious, budgetarily constrained environment. Politicians make the cuts they think are necessary, but there are consequences and they can be very long-reaching."
Himes added, "Prevention is cheaper than consequence."
Despite the cuts, Wright also noted the organization is doing what it can to keep the programs going.
"We're still utilizing volunteers and Sue's wearing multiple hats trying to keep it going on a bare bones budget," Wright said. "We'd be happy to talk to anyone interested in helping run the program on a minimum budget."