Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The travails of a genealogy volunteer

I alternate between teaching classes at the Mesa Family History Center and helping patrons. For example, next week (30 April to 4 May, 2012) I have 9 classes scheduled to teach. Mind you, I am not complaining. I very much enjoy teaching classes, but I am sometimes amused when someone begins to describe what they are going through preparing for a class they are going to teach in a month or so. Of course, after spending 37 years or so in court trials, I don't show much emotion, amusement or otherwise. Most of the subjects are very familiar to me and I have no trouble filling 45 minutes to an hour with useful information.

Most of the rest of the time, I spend helping whoever walks through the door. The vast majority of the patrons are a joy to work with. A very small percentage would be better off staying home and taking up some other interest. The Mesa FHC is organized into two shifts a day with volunteers. We have anywhere from 20 to 40 volunteers in the Center at any given time. Although it is not unusual to have fewer at off times in the evenings or on Saturdays. There are quite a few posts, or positions where the volunteers can serve, from greeters to manning the copy room cash register. Behind the scenes there are whole staff of volunteers who work on computers, networks, books, cataloging, staffing and orders.

The Center has two types of volunteers, those who are semi-permanent and others who are there as Service Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The missionaries have a specific term to their service, so many of them come and go. But there are a core of volunteers who come and stay for years and years. I have been volunteering in various capacities since about 1984 or so and I am presently on my third consecutive Service Mission. I have been there pretty steadily for about the last six or seven years. I will probably keep working there until I end up in a care center.

The Center has a Director and two Assistant Directors. They are like Church Service Missionaries and have a specific term of service of three years. The Directors are all extremely experienced and capable leaders and come from careers involving a multitude of skills.

Some of the volunteers at the Center are much younger than our usual average age. Some of the younger adults who cannot serve full-time missions for the Church because of disabilities, serve at the FHC for the term of their mission. They are a wonderful addition to the staff and provide very valuable service. Many have advanced computer skills and become invaluable additions.

The entire Center is based around 50 plus computers. Physically, there are two buildings. One is the main library where most of the staff work and serve and the other is a training center with a very large classroom and a computer lab with networked computers. The Center has a full schedule of classes every day it is open with about 30 to 40 different instructors. Classes are held at the main center and at the training center about a block away.

Most of the volunteers are members of the Church, but that is not a criteria for serving and there are a few volunteers who are not members. Usually, anyone interested in serving is welcome, but there are some requirements.

The Mesa FHC is what is known as a Large Multi-Stake Center, that means it serves an expanded geographic area. There are about 15 large FHCs out of the 4600 world-wide.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting insight into how a big FHC works. I volunteer withe the local (very small) FHC as a non church member. the comparisons couldn't be more marked with minimal "staffing", less experience, poor facilities. Having said that I would be at a loss without it and the opportunity to read films. I constantly advocate using films and greater rigor in research.