SEMINOLE – City Councilor Chris Burke has kicked off a new community volunteer program that he hopes will make the good life in Seminole even better.
Burke wants to recruit as many as 200 volunteers to form Seminole Helping Seminole – an effort that will use volunteers in a variety of areas around the city at no expense to taxpayers.
The four-tier program will offer volunteer opportunities on environmental, administrative, social and public assistance committees.
“I’m four months into being on the City Council and I’m like ‘let’s do something,’” Burke said. “I’ve always been a believer in government of the people, for the people and, most importantly, by the people. We already have the first two. This will give people an opportunity to contribute to their community. Hopefully, when people hear about this, they’ll say ‘there’s something for me to do.’”
Burke stressed that his program will have no impact on city staff or the city budget. It will be completely self-contained, he said.
The environmental committee would help with cleanups on city properties and streets.
“It could include maybe Seminole City Park or the roadways,” Burke said. “So any of our major thoroughfares or city parks would go with the cleanup.”
He said it would also include a green sub-committee for recycling efforts or anything green related. It would work closely with the Seminole Group on Sustainability and Recycling.
Burke said the administrative committee would be for residents who don’t necessarily want to volunteer in an outdoor venue.
“It would be for folks that don’t necessarily want to get out in the woods picking things up,” he said. “But they’re interested in helping us with paperwork or even helping our city departments with paperwork and filing or things like that that might need to be done.”
Burke said this is a group that could help him and other councilors.
“So if the City Council wanted to do surveys (of the public or business owners),” Burke said, “these folks could take the surveys around to businesses or residents, and things like that.”
The social committee would be used to recognize Seminole residents.
“This would be either for life accomplishments or milestone birthdays,” Burke said. “Also with the social committee, I’d like to have something like Welcome Wagon for new people who move into the city. I think it would be great if there was someone there to say ‘Hi, welcome to Seminole’ and these are all of the great things about our city. I don’t know if they’ll bring brownies with them, but we’ll see.”
The public assistance committee would be for volunteers who are more hands-on.
“Say we have an elderly resident who can’t cut the grass any more or needs help changing some light bulbs in their house,” Burke said. “A lot of folks can’t do those sorts of things. So if we had a group of volunteers that are available to swing by someone’s house and change out their microwave, nothing technical, but just giving an extra hand up, that would be their purpose.”
Following recruitment of volunteers, Burke said the second phase of his plan would be for the volunteers to make contact with businesses in Seminole and ask them if they’re interested in offering some form of discount to city residents.
“Then once I compile all their answers, I can publish those businesses, hopefully on the city Web page, so residents can go to those businesses and get a resident discount,” said Burke. “The businesses would get more revenue from the residents. It’s Seminole Helping Seminole.”
Burke, who was appointed to the City Council in November following the retirement of former Mayor Jimmy Johnson, has stressed the need for annexation and volunteerism in past election campaigns. He believes Seminole Helping Seminole will accomplish both of those goals.
Ultimately, Burke said, if discounts at Seminole businesses become available, the city will be a more attractive commodity for voluntary annexation. His program’s volunteer opportunities are self-explanatory.
“Life can be so much more fulfilling if you’re not sitting on the couch watching ‘The Price is Right’ all day,” said Burke. “By me volunteering to spearhead this, I’m not creating any more work for any city employee, which is what we want to avoid because they already have enough work to do. I think it’s a good thing if the council gets more involved with the city.”
While recruitment of volunteers is the first phase of his plan, Burke said he is also looking for help with making Seminole Helping Seminole into a nonprofit organization for tax purposes.
“What I’d really like to see is someone help us with making Seminole Helping Seminole gain nonprofit status,” he said “If that were the case, the volunteers could write their time off on their taxes and all of the businesses that might help out, say like Home Depot, if we get paint or something from them, they could write that off.
“If we could get someone to volunteer to help us with that, then it’s a win-win-win for everybody.”
To volunteer for one of Burke’s committees or to help with the organization gaining nonprofit status, email Burke at email@example.com.