A JABA volunteer works with a student as part of the FISH program.
A Charlottesville organization says its volunteers have contributed more than $1 million worth of services this past year, and Wednesday those volunteers were honored.
Members of the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, or JABA, are recognizing hundreds of volunteers in the area. They say during 2012, more than 1,400 registered volunteers gave more than 41,000 hours through JABA to programs in the city of Charlottesville and surrounding counties.
"So we are giving this day to celebrate volunteerism to celebrate our volunteers and thank them for the good work that they do," said Martha Williams, the manager of volunteer services for JABA.
From the ombudsman program for nursing home patient advocacy, to insurance counseling, to programs throughout many adult care centers, JABA offers several volunteer opportunities.
Williams said the FISH program or "Friends in Schools Helping," is one of the more popular volunteer programs.
"The FISH program is so unique and special," Williams said.
FISH program coordinators customize the services provided to each school based on its critical needs, targeting where schools need help and sending volunteers to fill in the gaps.
"Dwindling budgets make it so schools have to re-prioritize and maybe not be able to have as many services as they wish, so the community then, coming together and helping with that... just improves the community altogether," Williams said.
People of any age can volunteer with the FISH program. Williams said there are many college students who volunteer, as well as people from many different age ranges, but the majority of the FISH volunteers are retired adults.
"The volunteers themselves get such a benefit from working with the children and being a mentor and being there to help guide them [students] through life," Williams said. "It's just a win-win."
Within the past year the FISH program has added four new schools. The program is now in 18 schools and serves nearly 700 children.
JABA is hosted a volunteer recognition event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Carver Recreation Center in the Jefferson School City Center in Charlottesville. The event is to recognize all JABA volunteers.
JABA also gave special recognition to volunteer of the year, Geraldine Wells. Wells gave more than 900 hours of service to seniors in Keswick.
"I said, 'what? those many hours?' I guess when you're enjoying what you're doing, you don't realize the number of hours exactly as if it's something you weren't happy doing, but it was an enjoyable experience, very rewarding," said Wells.
Representatives from JABA also presented a ceremonial "big check" representing the monetary value of volunteer service.