The importance of volunteering at UC ANR

The importance of volunteering at UC ANR

They are considered the backbone of any nonprofit organization. They strongly believe in the objectives of the institution in which they invest their time. Of course, I am talking about volunteers—the special people who are motivated to change the communities where they live. Their passion makes them the perfect ambassadors of the organization, and often, their work catches the eyes of potential donors.

Volunteer  - CalFresh
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources has more than 26,000 volunteers who perform a variety of activities within the 4-H, Master Gardener, Master Food Preserver, and Environmental Stewards (California Naturalist and Climate Stewards) programs, among others, according to Gemma M. Miner, UC ANR volunteer coordinator. These volunteers are vital in educating communities, mentoring others, and representing their program and UC ANR at public events.

UC ANR volunteers are estimated to make about 2 million public contacts annually (data prior to COVID-19) through activities where they promote research-based information from UC ANR experts.

Since 2018, one of UC ANR's goals has been for academics to develop and manage projects that allow volunteers to lead, with the intention of strengthening volunteer engagement.

Miner emphasized that the search for volunteers is continuous. However, due to the diversity of UC ANR's state programs and the strategic locations of UC Cooperative Extension, attracting the right people is not a difficult task.

But who are the right people to volunteer at UC ANR?

The ideal candidate is any adult willing to contribute to improve the lives of Californians. "Collaborating with UC ANR is a lot of fun and rewarding, as you have the opportunity to return to the community what it has given us and often help families who desperately need some support," said Miner.

Volunteers- 4-H

Volunteering challenges

As the population in California moves from rural to urban areas, low-income families face disadvantaged situations. As a result, 6.8 million people live below the poverty level. This represents 1 in 6 California residents.

Latinos are one ethnic group hit harder by this problem. In California, 40% of the population is of Latino origin, yet the economic and social disparity is a sad reality for many of these families. Latinos comprise 51.4% of the population living 


below the poverty level, which is why UC ANR maintains as one of its objectives to help these families through the available programs. To successfully achieve this objective, it is vital to have volunteers who are not only bilingual but also bicultural.

Juan Jiménez and his wife Michele are two of thousands of volunteers who collaborate with UC ANR. Both participate in the 4-H youth development program in Riverside County. They know the importance of being bilingual and bicultural. They also know firsthand the reward of volunteering. "Volunteering makes me feel human and that I'm contributing to the community and my family," Juan said.

For Michele, volunteering for the community she lives in is natural. “Since I was a child, I have been a volunteer; my parents instilled in me the service to our community, our church,” she said. “To me, it is a very normal and satisfying thing.”

Every year in April, not-for-profit organizations everywhere in the country celebrate and recognize the work of those tireless people who dedicate their free time to the benefit of others. UC ANR joins them, and from the bottom of our hearts, we say:

Thank you, Volunteers!