vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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Volunteers help run Stafford government

The past few days have been some of the busiest in the Stafford County government complex. “It’s absolutely crazy,” said Ida Ansell, a volunteer at the information desk.

More than 200 people had walked through the doors before lunchtime Friday, a few days before county taxes were due, according to Ansell’s tally sheet. Usually, she records between 50 and 100 visitors during that time. And she would know—Ansell has been helping residents and keeping track of phone calls and visitors for 21 years. The self-described active senior is one of about 80 resident volunteers who help in various offices in the county government. The majority are retirees.

Some of Stafford's 80 volunteers are recognized at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting. Ida Ansell (far left, in red) has volunteered in the county for 21 years.

Seventeen residents who have volunteered more than 200 hours in the past year were recognized by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. “They’re basically the front porch for the county,” said Jeff Shover, manager of Stafford’s Citizen Assistance and Volunteer Services.

The volunteer program began 14 years ago when the Circuit Court had too much work and not enough people to do it. Volunteers started filling in the gaps, and then they spread to other departments. Now, they’re in almost every office as needed, doing everything from setting up traffic speed warning signs for the Sheriff’s Office to analyzing the number of volunteer hours for the monthly board report.

“We’re very fortunate to have a great group,”  said Shover, who is a full-time county employee. “They know we’re dependent on them. They work, they have responsibilities.”

In 2011, volunteers provided 11,965 hours of labor. That saved the county $311,090, or about $26 per hour, assuming the position would be filled with an employee with benefits.

Read the full story in Thursday’s paper.