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Expo matches organizations with volunteers

Carol Zegel, of Bayport, talks with Phyllis Chan

Carol Zegel, of Bayport, talks with Phyllis Chan Carr of Sagtikos Manor during a Volunteer Opportunity Expo at the West Sayville Country Club about volunteering at the historic home. (Oct. 18, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

After a lap around a room full of bulletin boards, Jerry and Irene Thurman had a lot to think about and a lot to read.

The Bayport couple walked out of the West Sayville Country Club, where the Suffolk County Parks Foundation was holding its first Volunteer Opportunity Expo, with their hands full of brochures about the various organizations there soliciting volunteers.

Each retired for roughly 10 years, the Thurmans attended the expo to see if anything caught their interest.

“I sometimes think about volunteering,” Jerry Thurman said. “We’re retired, so it’s something to do.”

They left the expo, however, committed to reading the literature, but not to volunteering quite yet. Thurman said they were looking for something involving the homeless, or a local food pantry, opportunities not represented at the expo.

Plus: “I think I have plenty to do,” Irene Thurman said.

Tom Malanga, executive director of the parks foundation, said the event was mutually beneficial for the nonprofit organizations associated with the parks department and the community.

Representatives from the 17 organizations that participated Tuesday night also participated in a seminar before the expo, which was led by the Long Island Center for Nonprofit Leadership and focused on volunteer recruitment and management.

Malanga said it was also an opportunity, especially for young people, to find a range of opportunities they might not know existed.

“I remember when I graduated from college and there weren’t jobs, I was looking for volunteer opportunities,” he said. “So, we’re hoping to attract some younger folks. . .”

He also said the benefit of finding younger volunteers was that they meet different needs, for example, many groups present were looking to bolster their use of social media and other technology.

The Hallockville Museum Farm has 28 acres and 19 buildings in Riverhead to care for and depends heavily on volunteers.

Executive director Herb Strobel said the average age of volunteers at the museum is older than 60, so they were trying to find some younger volunteers for the various jobs at the museum, which include everything from research and event planning to farm work.

“Everyone is getting busier and busier now,” he said. “So it’s difficult to find and retain volunteers.”

On the other side of the equation, Lisa Fritz and Deirdre Schutt, both of Sayville and members of the House of Judah, attended the expo to try to find volunteer opportunities for the members of their church, especially their youth, which is what they found in the Long Island Maritime Museum, present at the expo.

“And they are right here in the community,” Schutt said of the West Sayville operation. “It’s so close it’s really ideal. We should meet the needs of our town first and work outwards from there.”

For some at the expo, it was a perfect match.

Carol Zegel, of Bayport, said she just came with an open mind, but by the end of the expo, she was sold on one particular opportunity -- volunteering at Sagtikos Manor in West Bay Shore, the oldest building in the Town of Islip. It dates back to the 1690s.

“Something with a historic aspect, that appeals to me,” Zegel said.

Phyllis Chan Carr, who was representing Sagtikos Manor, jumped in. “We have 300 years of history,” she said. “I think you found the place for you.”

Photo: Phyllis Chan Carr shows a potential volunteer some of the benefits of working for Sagtikos Manor, a Revolutionary War house in West Bay Shore. (Oct. 18, 2011)