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Telesa Walton appointed to state volunteerism post

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A Jonesboro woman with a history of service, Telesa Walton, has accepted the governor's nomination to the Georgia Commission for Service and Volunteerism.

Walton, 30, is currently manager of Volunteer Services with the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, and has worked with, and for, non-profit organizations since she graduated from college.

"I went into the AmeriCorps VISTA program," said Walton. "AmeriCorps brought me down to Georgia, that was my first introduction to the non-profit world ... This gave me my link to the non-profit world, which I really didn't know about in college. I wouldn't say it surprised me. I think it ignited me."

Walton accepted a job with AmeriCorps halfway through her stint as a volunteer, and she has, since then, earned a master's degree in Urban Policy Studies with a specialization in non-profit management.

Since 2000, she has reviewed the grant applications AmeriCorps submits to the Georgia Commission of Service and Volunteerism. It is the state body supporting and facilitating community development projects and volunteer activities through the AmeriCorps programs.

She will take a seat on the commission at the next meeting in November.

Walton said she's eager to roll up her sleeves and get to work. She wants to "encompass all citizens in service," she said.

"Within everyone, we have the desire, or the mind, to give back to the community, but most haven't been asked. There's our challenge. It's just a matter of education. Once you educate the people, they have the choice in front of them," Walton said.

According to a study cited by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), in a speech calling for more volunteers, only a little more than 24 percent of Georgians have given time to help their communities, and the state comes in 43rd in volunteerism.

Walton said recruitment isn't the problem, in getting people engaged, the challenge is having solid, sustainable projects for the volunteers to work on.

"At the end of the day, you want to say, 'I was able to engage in X, Y, or Z.' We no longer live in a world where volunteers can just stuff envelopes. Now, there needs to be results-focused projects, where I can see how my time has been of value, and added to the non-profit project."

Walton said she was excited to hear the chairman of the Georgia Commission for Service and Volunteerism is interested in expanding programs, going beyond AmeriCorps and "creating a continuum of care with our non-profits."

She hopes to bring the tactics she's learned from her professional experience with non-profits and social service, to the commission, and the love of service that was ignited by the world of non-profits.