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Stafford County thanks its volunteers

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Sheriff’s Office volunteer Nick Kopchinsky patrols along Courthouse Road in Stafford County. ‘It’s nice to be interacting with the public, and it gives you a good feeling,’ Kopchinski says of his unpaid service.

Sheriff’s Office volunteer Nick Kopchinsky patrols along Courthouse Road in Stafford County. ‘It’s nice to be interacting with the public, and it gives you a good feeling,’ Kopchinski says of his unpaid service.

Nick Kopchinski puts in 36 hours a week with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office. He directs traffic, watches for speeders on neighborhood roads and assists people who have a flat tire or run out of gas. 

He isn’t a deputy, though. He’s a volunteer.

“It’s nice to be interacting with the public, and it gives you a good feeling,” Kopchinski said.

Stafford County volunteers, not counting fire and rescue, combined to work 40,674 hours in 2013, saving the county $1 million in salaries and benefits.

Kopchinski was one of two volunteers who performed more than 1,000 hours; he put in 1,741.

“I’m doing something I like,” Kopchinski said. “I don’t want to sit around and watch soap operas all day.”

The 188 volunteers operate out of the Citizens Assistance Office at the George L. Gordon Jr. Government Center and perform a variety of tasks. They work in every sector of local government, from the animal shelter to the courts and everything in between.

For some volunteers, such as Ginny Preda, volunteering allows them to serve the community while acquiring new skills.

“To me, it’s important to continue to learn and stay active,” Preda said.

Preda started volunteering with the county in 2003 after Hurricane Isabel. She had been without power for 10 days and attended a meeting the county held for citizens to ask questions.

While she was there, she met a county worker who was telling people how they could help in future emergency situations by handling non-911 calls.

“I signed up because I was frustrated, and I wanted to help,” Preda said.

Since then, Preda has answered non-911 calls during emergencies, helped initiate the 311 call center, gives third-graders tours of the courthouse and works at the front desk.

“She’s been very active since I’ve been here,” said Jeff Shover, the manager for the Citizens Assistance Office. “She’s been one of the volunteers that I’ve felt very comfortable picking up the phone and calling her whenever.”

Preda works the information desk on Wednesday afternoons at the courthouse.

“I think one of the things I enjoy the most is when someone says, ‘Oh, you’re a human,’” Preda said. “A lot of people from out of the county are used to getting a voicemail, and I like the fact that when they call I can give them the information.”

Doris McAdams, a serial volunteer, works the morning shift on Wednesdays, but along with her county hours she also lends her time to the historical society, England Friendship Association and helps diagram area cemeteries for online databases.

For her, the most memorable experience she had while volunteering was when she helped an older man in a wheelchair to the voter registrar’s office.

“Just watching him and seeing all the time it took him I’d just like someone to do the same for my parents or even me when I get older,” McAdams said.

Most of the volunteers are retirees, but some college students help out during the summer.

“I’m not up to date on social media, so they are very useful when it comes to that,” Shover said.

However, the volunteers who are in the Citizens Assistance group are not alone in helping out the county. Stafford also has numerous fire and rescue volunteers who go through hours of training in order to lend a hand.

People who are interested in volunteering can call the Citizens Assistance Office at 540/658-4518 or visit staffordcountyva.gov.

Jessica Koers: 540/374-5444

jkoers@freelancestar.com 

HELPERS FILL VARIOUS GOVERNMENT NEEDS

Other localities in the Fredericksburg region utilize volunteers in areas other than fire and rescue.

Spotsylvania County, for example, estimates it uses hundreds of volunteers in a variety of positions that help save the county money.

Aside from parks and recreation, where almost all localities have volunteer coaches, officials, scorekeepers and the like, Spotsylvania gets help from Master Gardeners, food volunteers and 4–H members; law students who do legal research or help with legal programs; auxiliary deputies, the Cadet Corps and VIPs in the Sheriff’s Office; and help at special events such as the county fishing derby, Stonewall Jackson 20-mile Run, and Christmas events.

In all, the county estimates more than 3,200 individual volunteers work with various programs.

“It is pretty incredible to realize the great, priceless impact volunteers have toward the smooth operation of governmental departments and the success of community outreach programs and special events,” county spokeswoman Kathy Smith said in an email. “No concrete dollar value can be placed on the important contributions made by all of these giving volunteers. So our best evaluation of their contribution and worth is that they are priceless.”

In the city, seven auxiliary police officers volunteered more than 1,700 hours in 2013. They work at City Council meetings, help increase the number of officers patrolling the streets and provide help at special events such as the Christmas parade and Historic Half Marathon.

Volunteers provide thousands of hours of help with the city’s youth athletic programs, but also volunteer for special events such as the Soap Box Derby, First Night and cleanup projects, among other things.

Orange County has 40 volunteers who work at the Visitor Center, handing out information and manning booths at various public events. Those volunteers put in more than 2,750 hours last year, saving the county more than $33,000, according to Tourism Director Leigh Mawyer and Tourism Services Coordinator Jayson Woods.

In addition, the county animal shelter has 86 volunteers who walk dogs, bathe animals, and perform other duties. They contributed about 4,250 hours in 2013, saving the county about $51,000.

Staff writers Jeff Branscome, Pamela Gould and Dan McFarland contributed to this report.

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