Volunteers valuable to meal programs

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How much are volunteers worth?

For the Flathead County Agency on Aging, help from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program for the Meals on Wheels and congregate meal programs add up to big bucks.

Using Independent Sector’s value of volunteer time at $21.79 per hour — a figure used by United Way — senior volunteers provided $261,433 worth of free help for the meal programs last year, according to data provided to the county commissioners this week by Agency on Aging Director Lisa Sheppard.

Independent Sector is a leadership network for nonprofits and corporate giving programs. Charitable organizations throughout the United States use Independent Sector figures to illustrate the amount of community support an organization receives, Sheppard said.

In Flathead County, RSVP volunteers supplied 92 percent of the volunteers for a total of 11,997 volunteer hours to provide the meal programs in 2012.

Using the state of Montana’s volunteer rate of $15.28 per hour, the value totals $183,327. Additionally, Sheppard said the work of three volunteers who contribute about 20 hours a week to assist RSVP staff is valued at nearly $16,000 annually.

Close to 4,900 volunteer hours were spent last year on the Meals on Wheels program at the agency’s facility on Kelly Road. Another 646 volunteer hours were devoted to congregate meals served there.

The Meals on Wheels program in Whitefish also benefits from a generous amount of volunteer help — 3,372 hours last year, with 336 volunteer hours devoted to Whitefish congregate meals. The Meals on Wheels program is time-consuming, a volunteer drivers deliver meals to elderly residents throughout the community.

The Kalispell Senior Center, were congregate meals are served, benefited from 919 volunteer hours.

Other meal sites operating with volunteer help are in Lakeside, 870 volunteers hours; Columbia Falls, 775 hours; and Bigfork, 184 hours.

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