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Volunteers working for our community

The first full week in April is National Volunteer Week, so this seems a good time to share a story of how one volunteer can make a real difference in helping local government operate more efficiently.

Charlotte Nash, Chairman Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners

We had about 700 real estate files sitting in cabinets in the Gwinnett Department of Support Services. The paper documents were many years old but the County still owns the fee-simple properties they describe. Our staff needed to scan them into an electronic format to make them more convenient to use, easier to search, and simpler to store.

It was an enormous and challenging task that we had hoped that current employees could do a little at a time until it was finally complete. But there was always higher priority work to be done and after several years, that was obviously not going to work.

Unfortunately, the nature of the work required someone with appropriate knowledge and skills, but the budget just would not stretch enough to hire an employee or pay a firm to tackle this task.

That’s where our relatively new Volunteer Gwinnett program comes in. We posted the task online and soon found a willing volunteer with the real estate skills and experience we needed and the time available to do the work.

Six months and 438 hours later, our intrepid volunteer had selected all the relevant files and scanned them into our existing digital document storage system. It could easily have cost the County $10,000 to have this work done by a contractor, an expense we simply couldn’t afford.

This is just one example of the wonderful things that are happening every day thanks to the willingness of Gwinnett residents to get involved and lend their expertise freely to help local government improve operations. The end result is better, more efficient government for everyone and feelings of satisfaction and usefulness for the volunteers.

The idea behind Volunteer Gwinnett came from a citizen task force called Engage Gwinnett. Back in 2010, that group set a very ambitious goal of a million volunteer hours by 2015. I should not have been surprised when Gwinnett residents met that goal two years early! Serving a grand total of 1,025,942 hours last year, our volunteers gave generously of their time and talent.

If you have some time on your hands and want to give back to your community, please check out that website: We’ll all be glad you did!