Commissioner Corner Volunteerism In Delray

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By: Commissioner Jim Chard Special to the Delray Newspaper

This is a love letter to volunteers in Delray, a paean to those who invest their time in making our City a unique and iconic community.  A substantially under-appreciated asset here in Delray is its large number of volunteers … they comprise a key ingredient to the quality of life in Delray.

The Delray City Commission recently benefited from the efforts of the Rising Waters Task Force and the Historic Preservation Task Force. Both studies represented many man years of effort and produced results that would otherwise cost the City tens of thousands of dollars.  The City will soon be listening to the report from the Homeless Task Force.  Notice that none of these issues is insignificant; they are all strategic challenges the City needs to face. Our citizen-activists are leading the way to meaningful solutions.

My list of volunteer efforts is incomplete so hopefully I won’t offend any hardworking volunteers if their teams are not mentioned here: the Congress Avenue Task Force, the Beach Master Plan, the Northwest Southwest Transformation Plan, the Police Auxiliary, and the Parks Department volunteers. Our Not-For-Profits which contribute so much to our City’s substance also benefit from countless volunteer hours: Historical Society, library, Spady, Sandoway, Caring Kitchen, Old School Square, and Arts Garage to name a few. We should also not overlook Delray Reads, Walk a Child to School, and Career Day which are large volunteer efforts directed to the future of our children.

However, I believe we are just beginning to harness the power of citizen involvement-volunteerism. There are opportunities for the City Commission to energize other volunteer-driven activities and direct them toward problem solving in Delray. Here are three recent examples:

The Milagro Center partnered with students from the University of Florida’s GRIP program to design and build prosthetic arms using 3D printers for a young drummer Jamarion Styles who lost his arms due to a childhood infection.

Community Greening sponsored an invasives removal program and replanting of slash pines at Barwick Park that engaged nearly 80 students from Atlantic High School. This citizen led effort to revive the park was necessary because budget cuts to the Parks Department made it impossible to maintain the park to the level expected by nearby residents.

Delray Students First in cooperation with the Institute of Regional Conservation, a Delray Beach organization, removed invasive species and planted dune-protective native plants. IRC provided the supervision and botanical expertise and the students provided the muscle power to get it done.

The City Commission should consider establishing a Volunteer Board, similar in nature to the Education Board, to encourage and coordinate this font of energy and promote ideas to the City’s benefit.