September 18, 2009
Volunteerism at UpReach surges

GOFFSTOWN - In tough economic times, people often cut their budgets and find ways to spend less.

For nonprofit organizations, this belt-tightening can have a devastating effect. Without donations, many are forced to close.

UpReach Therapeutic Riding Center in Goffstown found itself in the predicament back in February when United Way, a major financial backer, was unable to offer further financial assistance.

The decision was made to restructure, and the Upreach staff hasn’t looked back since. Though half of the staff was let go and two horses had to find new homes, one staff person has already been brought back, “through grants, donations and the kindness of our neighbors,” said Barb Miles, UpReach’s director of development.

So far, the restructuring has been what Miles describes as very successful. One of the positives amidst all the challenges is that the facility has actually seen a surge in volunteerism.

“Volunteers all help us do work we normally couldn’t do,” said Miles.

Director of volunteers Lauren Kochakian agreed. “Finding some source of funding is imperative.”

Over the last six months, UpReach has realized that the biggest gift is time, and that cannot be replaced with money.

This is where the hundreds of volunteers that support UpReach come in. The five staff members, 10 horses and 61 students are supported by 350 volunteers each year, with 120 of those actively volunteering each week at any given time. Those volunteers log in more than 12,500 hours a year, doing everything from mucking stalls to office work to actively supporting the riders during lessons.

“We have no ‘typical’ volunteer,” said Kochakian. “We have doctors, students, retir ees and everything in between. Some volunteer because of the horses, some people want to work to help those with disabilities, but they all unite here at UpReach.”

Recently, a group of prison inmates on a work-release program spent a week at UpReach, tackling projects such as removing musty carpet, painting floors and other miscellaneous chores. Because these men were at UpReach most of the day, five local churches provided meals for these volunteers. Miles was very impressed with so many in the community coming together for a common cause.

UpReach has plans to strengthen its community awareness efforts with a new ambassador program, designed to increase community awareness of UpReach, educate the public about programs and services and enhance fundraising efforts.

Plans are also currently under way for a Diamonds and Denim Gala fundraiser on Oct. 23, sponsored by BJ’s of Hooksett.

For more information, call UpReach at 497-2343.



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