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North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Carlsbad Community Coordinator Sue Irey Wins Local, National Awards

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Sue Irey (photo: courtesy City of Carlsbad)

Carlsbad CA— City of Carlsbad Community Coordinator Sue Irey was recently honored with local and national awards for her work in recruiting and managing the city’s more than 3,200 volunteers.
The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government named Irey Outstanding Volunteer Administrator for 2015 and honored her at an association program Oct. 19.
On Nov. 12, the North County Philanthropy Council recognized Irey with the Spirit of Carol Sigelman Award, which is awarded to a volunteer coordinator “who exemplifies the passion, integrity, wisdom and humor” that Sigelman showed when she served on the council’s board.
Irey helps direct the energies of 3,241 volunteers who donated more than 140,000 hours last year to help with a wide variety of city services and events.
“It’s been a pleasure to recruit and find volunteers because the city has an outpouring of interest from residents wanting to make Carlsbad an even better place,” Irey said. “We have some highly talented people living in Carlsbad who are willing to provide their services for free, which is invaluable.”
The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government said in announcing the award that Irey “has defined the volunteer process, reduced liability and greatly increased volunteer involvement.”
Irey said that when she became Carlsbad’s first volunteer coordinator in 2003 the city had about 500 volunteers and no centralized tracking system. With the help of a volunteer, Irey assembled a database that lists all volunteers and their skills, and she matches up volunteers with city staff seeking help.
“I have worked hard to standardize our processes and structure our volunteer program with the city’s standards of confidentiality, safety, respectful workplace standards and customer service ethic,” said Irey. “This creates a very professional tone, right from the beginning.”
Irey said when she gets a request from a city department looking for a volunteer, she sends information on candidates. Sometimes the needs can be quite specific, such as the time a city staff person asked if she could find a volunteer architect to provide input on a project.
“I thought, wow, that’s highly specialized. And we wound up with two people who offered their architectural skills for free,” Irey recalled.
Irey said many of the volunteer roles are traditional ones, such as helping at city libraries and parks. But she noted that the city also runs some programs that are out of the ordinary. One is a mediation program run through the Neighborhood Services Division, in which the city provides mediators to help resolve conflicts among neighbors. Another is CityStuff, an elementary school program where volunteers introduce third-graders to local government.
“The last lesson the students do is a mock city council meeting,” Irey said. “It gives them a real feel for how democracy works.
“Volunteerism is such an important resource,” Irey said. “It’s not free, because there are administrative costs, but both in terms of the hours donated and the increased connection people feel with their city, the return on investment is huge.”
Irey said she is honored that The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government and the North County Philanthropy Council have recognized Carlsbad. And she said her work has been rewarding.
“I believe that the success of the volunteer program is due to the fact that there are people who want to give back to their community, and my role is to give people a pathway to use those talents that they’re offering,” Irey said. “The ability of volunteers to improve the world is unlimited.”

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Carlsbad Community Coordinator Sue Irey Wins Local, National Awards