VNA seeks volunteers for WIC program

State and federal funding cuts have left several non-profit organizations in the lurch and looking for volunteers to fill in the holes.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association needs enough volunteers to fill 32 hours a week what might have been a full-time paid position if the funding were there to assist with the increasing demand on the Colorado Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).

"The state has done some cuts and the VNA has taken a hit, so no more positions can be funded," said Kay Borvansky, administrative assistant in charge of special projects with the Visiting Nurse Association.

Participation in the WIC program is soaring and those who administer it need assistance.

Volunteers would work with infants and children, and their mothers.

Borvansky said she hopes to find at least two volunteers willing to work four hours a day, four days a week.

"To be fair to the volunteers, it's nicer to have them come in four-hour shifts," said

They would be doing some clerical work, but mostly helping by weighing and measuring children and entertaining those who might be waiting for an appointment or waiting while their mothers receive nutritional counseling.

"Volunteering is a gift people give the VNA," Borvansky said. "Volunteers play an integral role in helping non-profits such as the VNA."

According to the Food and Nutrition Service, more than seven million people nationwide get WIC benefits each month. Participation has risen steadily since the program began. In 1974, the first year WIC was permanently authorized, 88,000 people participated. By 1980, participation was at 1.9 million; by 1990 it was 4.5 million; and by 2000 it was 7.2 million. Average monthly participation for Fiscal Year 2001 was approximately 7.31 million.

In Colorado, nearly 80,000 people are served.

"The WIC nutrition program is really a booming, booming piece of activity going on at the VNA," Borvansky said. "It's a very highly utilized program especially in Craig."

Three volunteers help with the WIC program at the Steamboat Springs office of the VNA.

"The volunteers in the Steamboat office really love it," Borvansky said. "They love the interaction with kids and their moms.

"When you provide a volunteer opportunity and it is something they enjoy, they really get a lot out of it."

The WIC target population is low-income, nutritionally at-risk, pregnant women, breastfeeding women (up to infant's first birthday), infants and children up to five.

WIC serves 45 percent of all infants born in the United States.

Benefits include supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling at WIC clinics and screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services.

"It's a pretty diverse and wide-range program because a lot of services are rolled into one," Borvansky said.

Volunteers would be interviewed and screened and could be subject to a background check.

"I personally interview them to make sure they are truly appropriate," Borvansky said.

Congress appropriated $4.387 billion for WIC in 2002. The appropriation includes $10 million for the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. By comparison, the WIC program cost $10.4 million in 1974; $727.7 million in 1980; $1.5 billion in 1985; and $2.1 billion in 1990.

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