Two attendants directed parking at the Waquoit Congregational Church on Sunday afternoon, January 28, as cars spilled out of the parking lots and onto the side streets, and hundreds of people made their way through the community hall at Engage Falmouth’s second annual Volunteer Fair and “Engagement party.”
Thirty tables set up end-to-end in the hall barely contained the number of nonprofit and service organizations present, their representatives handing out brochures and flyers, speaking about their organizations at the microphone, and signing people up on mailing lists.
Music played in the background, and people got snacks at the food table as they toured the opportunities to sign up to volunteer depending upon personal interest.
“The fair is tabled by organizations that do good works,” organizer and Engage Falmouth member Jarita A. Davis said. “Service organizations need people to do hands-on activities; this is about neighbors helping neighbors.”
Engage Falmouth is a local organization dedicated to “mobilizing, motivating and empowering the community to be a force for progressive change.”
Dr. Davis explained that “VOTE LOCAL” was a large part of what the event was about: encouraging citizens to vote in their local elections.
“Research shows that the more people volunteer in their local communities, the more likely they are to vote in local elections,” Dr. Davis said.
Those who promised to vote in Falmouth’s municipal elections on May 15 of this year received a candy “engagement” ring at the volunteer fair.
Many of the organizations at the event had no overtly political agenda.
Habitat for Humanity, for example, handed out, among other material, a flyer encouraging people to recycle old cars by donating them to Habitat.
Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifer handed out bullet-pointed information on how to keep toxins out of Cape Cod’s only, fragile, water source.
Cape Cod Literacy Council offers literacy education to anyone who needs it.
Cape Cod Pride, which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, is looking for volunteers for an event at Falmouth High School in June.
Children’s Cove, the Cape & Islands child advocacy center, provides “hope and healing” for abused children.
Belonging To Each Other, a grassroots organization in its third year, provides winter housing to homeless men and women in the Falmouth area. It also provides its clients with counseling, help in filling out paperwork for benefits and services, transportation, and connects them with the Falmouth Service Center.
Youth Street Reach, a program of the Cape Cod Council of Churches, pairs teens with homeless people to offer food and hospitality.
Grandmothers Against Gun Violence is a non-partisan group that works to raise awareness about gun violence. The group states that it is not against guns; it is against gun violence.
The 300 Commitee Land Trust is dedicated to “preserving the natural places of Falmouth.”
Falmouth SWIFT, a program of Cape Cod Women for Change, has its mission embedded in the acronym: Supporting Women in Financial Transition.
The Community Climate Corps will host its first meeting in February. Its mission is to “organize and execute service projects for individuals, businesses and community organizations to reduce waste and promote thrifty use of resources,” its flyer states.
These organizations doing good works within the community are but a sampling of what was represented at the volunteer fair.
“This event gives people the opportunity to volunteer and give back to their community,” Dr. Davis said. “A lot of people want to help. Different organizations appeal to different people,” she said.
For the politically motivated, organizations such as the Coalition for Social Justice offered their information. The coalition has “recruited hundreds of volunteers, many new to social activism, to help people find a way to make progressive politics a reality,” its flyer states. This year, it has expanded its agenda to include Build Indivisible Southeast Mass — Fight Back Against the Trump Agenda to take up issues such as immigration and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
350 Mass Cape Cod, a local chapter of 350 Mass (which is closely aligned with the mission of 350.org, an international climate movement) founded in January of 2017, is “mobilizing Cape citizens and supporting state-wide efforts to promote climate-friendly policies, advance renewable energy interests, and hold officials accountable,” according to its pamphlet titled, “sink or swim political action plan.”
The Immigration Resource Center offers services that are completely confidential and free, according to Janet Simons Folger, esquire. Ms. Simons Folger said the center’s clientload has dropped with the new White House administration because people are afraid to come forward. “We really want people to know that we are here, and we are safe,” she said. “We can help with green cards and filling out paperwork. Expired papers do not mean a person is illegal.”
Action Together Massachusetts (ATMA) “empowers individuals to reclaim our democratic heritage through targeted, strategic civic engagement for social welfare,” and works to “advance progressive values and legislation with a focus on the local and state level,” its mission statement says.
The Action Together table featured its cookbook, “The Resistance Cookbook, Nasty Women and Bad Hombres in the Kitchen.”
Again, these are a sampling of what was offered.
The League of Women Voters of Falmouth handed out information sheets on the Massachusetts Executive Branch—who the officeholders are and what they do, and a postcard with these five suggestions: Be a voter; take five minutes each week to call or write to elected officials about an issue that is important to you; start small with a local issue to avoid feeling overwhelmed; join an organization to engage with like-minded others; and keep politically current by reading, listening, and watching the news, double-checking courses to be sure the information is accurate.
“We want people to look back at this last year and celebrate the successes of volunteerism within the community,” Dr. Davis said. “Many people have been very active in the past year and it is important to take a minute and look at all that has been done by so many people,” she said.
Dr. Davis encouraged volunteers and activists to look toward 2018 and ask “what do we want to accomplish.” “This is the opportunity for people to have gotten involved to use the skills they have learned to ‘level up,’ ” she said. “It is time to take a step higher. A year from now, what do we want to look back on? We want to build forward instead of just treading water,” she said.