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Number of local volunteers growing.

Byline: SUSAN PALMER The Register-Guard

Lynda Duffy isn't waiting around for someone else to make the world a better place. The self-employed marketer and jingle producer has set aside her work to organize a fund-raising event to help Lane County's poor.

She's part of what may be a growing volunteer movement here, less visible than peace activists taking to the streets, but reaching out to help people who are falling on hard times.

FOOD for Lane County, for example, usually sees a slump in volunteers in January, but has had about 70 new people call wanting to help, said volunteer coordinator Sheyla Norte.

Sacred Heart Medical Center saw its volunteers grow by about 30 in 2002 up to 1,004 people from 977 the previous year. But the calls have recently increased, said Lynne Lafey, manager of volunteer services for the hospital.

"I feel like we've had more inquiries than we normally do this time of year and it's a range of people, retirees and working professionals wanting to give back to the community," she said.

The number of people who volunteered in the Eugene School District from September through December is up by 177 over the same period last year, said district spokesman Kelly McIver.

The numbers only tell part of the story, said St. Vincent de Paul spokeswoman Rebecca Larson. Last week, the Catholic agency got a call from a contractor who wanted to offer his services for free one day a week.

A contribution like that - even by one person - makes a huge difference in the nonprofit world, Larson said.

For Duffy, that means organizing a fund that will help Lane County residents struggling to pay their utility bills.

She's set up an evening fund-raiser at the Eugene Hilton for March 28 that will include a slate of well-known blues and jazz musicians and a silent auction. Blues for HUES - Heat up Eugene Springfield - could pull in $150,000, she said.

Duffy was stopped cold by pictures in a newspaper story about a family whose power was shut off.

It wasn't so much the parents in the picture, who both lost their jobs the previous summer, but the children in the background that pulled at her heart strings, she said.

"As adults we have gone through the experiential thing where we know that this too shall pass, but children, this is their life, they don't know that it will," she said.

She felt she had to do something about it, so she got on the phone with area utilities and told them she wanted to do a fund-raiser to help such families.

She caught them a little off guard.

"I was extremely surprised," said Charles Dalton, Eugene Water & Electric Board customer relations manager, who oversees the utility's Energy Share program. "I've been working here nine years and have never had a call like that."

Duffy contacted all of Lane County's utilities as well as St. Vincent de Paul, which administers the EWEB help fund.

St. Vincent agreed to administer whatever money Duffy is able to raise.

The help couldn't come at a better time, said Terry McDonald, the charity's executive director.

About 40 to 50 people a day get help with their utility bills, but about 20 a day get turned away, he said.

Whatever amount Duffy can raise will make a difference, McDonald said, and cited a proverb about a man knowing he can't rescue every sea star that washes up on a beach, but is content to rescue the ones he finds.

"It's marvelous. It's sharing and doing good, standing up and giving more than we receive," he said.

TO HELP

Blues for HUES: call Lynda Duffy at 345-9081 or e-mail her at lduffy@nu-world.com

Volunteer: Contact the United Way at 741-6000 or online at www.unitedwaylane.org. The agency can link prospective volunteers with the organizations that provide the best fit. Opportunities are also available at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital 741-4606 and Sacred Heart Medical Center 686-6825.
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Title Annotation:General News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 26, 2003
Words:662
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