Volunteer fair brings community together


Community members of all ages gathered at the Oceanside Public Library for the Volunteer Fair on Feb. 5. Representatives of the non-profit organizations were in attendance with educational flyers and volunteer sign-up sheets in the main area of the library. Two seminars for nonprofit leaders were also held at the children’s hall of the library, “Using Social Media, Email and More” and “The Nuts and Bolts of Non-Profit Organizations.”

“We know that there are a lot of people around town that want to help but just don’t know how,” said Tony Iovino, Assistant Director of the Oceanside Public Library. Space is limited due to the temporary location but expect the volunteer fair to become a yearly event.

Communal support was the main theme spotted as attendees were enthralled to learn how to get involved and make a difference in the community. The coalition behind the volunteer fair consists of 12 sectors of the community that meet once a month to create a safe, healthy and drug-free Oceanside community – local businesses, youth, parents, Oceanside school district, media, law enforcement, youth serving opportunities, religious/fraternal organizations, civic/volunteer groups, healthcare professionals, government representatives and organizations involved in reducing substance abuse.

Many of the non-profits have been around for several years except for one- REEF, an inclusive program for adults with special needs to continue educational and social experiences post high school, which began in November 2022. Volunteers are needed to work alongside adults with diverse abilities as mentors. REEF stands for readiness, education, empowerment and friendship.

“This program is one of our proudest accomplishments,” said Michael Ambrosio head of Patron Experience and Special Needs Liaison at Oceanside Library, in regard to the success of the joint partnership between REEF and graduate students from Molloy College.

The Oceanside Library also offers opportunities for students to become youth volunteers.

“Anyone can volunteer, we have a lot of students who do community service hours, retirees, and people who happen to have a day off,” said Mary Blanco, a community member representing Book Fairies, a nonprofit organization with the mission to distribute books to under-resourced communities.

School affiliated programs require students to log a certain amount of community service hours to maintain eligibility.

“Our parents told us about the event, so we came as we need community service hours to qualify for National Junior Honor Society,” said eighth-grade students Nicholas Carvajal and Jayden Quo.

A couple steps away, Iovino opened the discussion on how to use library resources and software available to attendees interested in starting a non-profit organization and community non-profit representatives aiming to reach a bigger audience.

“We are trying to give back to the nonprofits as the nonprofits give back to our community,” said Iovino during his presentation teaching attendees about online programs, marketing tools, graphics programs and budget branding. “With events like this, we also hope to develop synergies between the organizations,” he said.

Jillian Weston, chief executive officer and founder of Jillian’s Circus and Oceanside high school alumni, focused on the importance of digital marketing based on her expertise in the field. Weston’s presentation was informative as attendees took notes and thanked Weston for her insight on how to use online platforms and traditional tools to recruit new members, volunteers and donations.

“I think it is so important to have this information on a community level because these are the people who are genuinely helping our community, so I’m very happy to help them learn all the tools that are at their disposal,” said Weston.

Ted Schlomann CPA and partner at Baldessari & Coster, LLP alongside Iovino gave the final presentation - a crash-course on the legal and accounting basics in terms of nonprofits.  It was announced during the seminars that a podcast studio will be available for use at the Oceanside Public Library for community members and nonprofits to spread the word. Further information will be provided soon.

“It has been a lot of fun,” Blanco said when asked about her experience working with Book Fairies, “there are a lot of nice people you meet working there and it’s flexible hours so it’s just enjoyable.”