Collier Resource Center volunteers celebrate return after a yearlong furlough

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Joey Pellegrino

The 15 volunteers at the Collier Resource Center have been home, waiting to get back to work. Today, they get to see each other again for the first time since they’ve all been vaccinated.

The first thing they’ll do is celebrate all the birthdays they missed over the last year.

“Well, as you know, many people were very stressed trying to get a vaccine,” said Nina Gray, founder of the Collier Resource Center. “So our volunteers are creative people. And they’re persistent. One volunteer who’s very computer savvy was able to get many vaccines for people on various websites, so she helped get probably a third of the team vaccinated.”

The Collier Resource Center is a free service, essentially a connector to a rolodex of resources. They get calls on everything from needing to find affordable grief counseling groups to helping people find food pantries or helping families find rental assistance.
Calls during the pandemic increased by 29%, and through it all, only one person was working to answer those calls, because the volunteers couldn’t help out from home.

But now that they’re all vaccinated, they can return.

“And you want to do it now, more because you know there’s more need now, and the sooner we can get back to doing it the way we think it should be done and the way that helps more people, you know… the better off more people will be,” said Gary Lapidas, a volunteer.

“And we’re going to celebrate the fact that one year has gone by since we were furloughed, and that everyone survived COVID[-19],” Gray said. “That’s a huge piece of gratitude and appreciation that everyone has had their vaccinations, and that we’re able to go back to work and roll up our sleeves.”

The Collier Resource Center volunteers will be meeting at Cambier Park at 10 a.m. with cake and balloons for the celebration. If you need the Center’s services, or if you’d like to volunteer, call (239) 434-2030.

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