Spoke Talk: Finding your volunteer niche

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How to help

If you have a talent you think could help Routt County Riders, let the club know here

Spreading time between family, work, recreation and friends can leave little room for volunteering. I used to be a classic example of someone who never seemed able to carve out an ounce of spare time to “give back.”

And then I found my perfect volunteer niche.

As an avid mountain biker, I love riding Howelsen Hill and enjoy the trails all the time. When I found out about a trail workday scheduled by Routt County Riders, I finally found something I was happy to volunteer my time for. After all, I would become the direct beneficiary of the fruits of my own labor: a buffed-out mountain bike trail. Little did I know that this was just the beginning.

Volunteering to help build and maintain trails introduced me to some great people who were passionate about cycling in Steamboat. This eventually led me to join Routt County Riders and attend a few meetings. The group is made up of cyclists of all ages and interests, from road riding to mountain riding to bicycle commuting. Because I do all three, I knew I was in the right place.

During a Routt County Riders meeting in summer 2009, there was a discussion about how to be more proactive in creating new trails in Routt County. At the time, Routt County Riders was in the process of applying for 501(c)3 nonprofit status so that funding options could be expanded. Finding grant funding from a variety of sources for new trails and bicycle education programs seemed like a logical next step for the club. It was then that I realized how I could contribute most. I knew I could write grants for Routt County Riders. I had found my true volunteer niche.

I wrote my first grant for Routt County Riders with the help of Gina Robison, recreation planner for the Bureau of Land Management. With her expert guidance and editing, we crafted a grant proposal for Great Outdoors Colorado to fund a new trail on Emerald Mountain in the Special Recreation Management Area. This got me on a roll.

I then had the privilege of working with Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush on a Safe Routes to School grant to provide bicycling education at our local elementary schools. Next was another grant to re-route the steep section of trail on Howelsen Hill just before Brian’s Worry. And after that, the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs needed help with a grant to the Bikes Belong Organization for Rotary’s new trail in the Special Recreation Management Area of Emerald Mountain.

In each case, my time working with dedicated, professional and passionate people was well worth the effort. Routt County Riders since has been successful with the Great Outdoors Colorado grant for the Emer­ald Mountain trail, the Safe Routes to School Grant for local bicycle education programs and is awaiting an award announcement this month for the Bikes Belong Grant to help fund the new Rotary Trail. This month, we are working on another Safe Routes to School grant application for the South Routt School District. Whether we’re successful with a grant award or whether we have to go back to the drawing board for a different angle, volunteering my time for Routt County Riders has been a great source of personal satisfaction.

The key to finding your volunteer niche is to work toward something you care about, believe in or have special talent to share with those in need. Whether helping the elderly, cleaning up the town each spring or maintaining a bike trail, volunteering is fun and rewarding. If you find the right volunteer niche, the work isn’t really work at all.

Johanna Hall is a member of Routt County Riders. She can be reached in care of the club at www.routtcountyriders.org

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