Looking for a way to help neighbors in need? Or simply have some spare time on your hands?

In an uncertain economy with no relief in sight, more and more citizens are turning to friends and neighbors for help. Local non-profit organizations are also struggling to make ends meet, so two local organizations have put together an event designed to bridge the gap between those who need help and those with time to spare.

Tonight’s the night when local non-profit organizations and community members will come together at a volunteer fair sponsored by the American Association of University Women and Stephenville Chamber of Commerce.

The fair will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, located at 1302 N. Harbin Drive.

A number of local organizations will make a brief presentation regarding volunteers. Light refreshments will be served.

Anyone unable to attend the event, below is a list of some of the organizations that could use help.

• CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)

CASA for the Cross Timbers Area, Inc. is a voice for abused and neglected children in Erath, Bosque, Eastland, Hamilton and Palo Pinto counties.

According to the organization’s Web Site, www.casacta.org, 46,246 children in Texas were victims of abuse and neglect in 2007. CASA advocates serve as the voice for hundreds of child victims in the five-county Cross Timbers Area.

CASA volunteers make childrens’ wishes known to the court and advocate for their best interest by making recommendations to CPS and the court through independent investigation and monitoring of the case. CASA advocates must complete reports on all hearings relevant to the child or children they represent.

Volunteers must be 21 or older, undergo and pass criminal background and CPS checks and complete a training program. Training consists of 15 hours classroom training and 15 hours outside of class and three hours of courtroom observation. Upon completion of training, volunteers are sworn in and must agree to volunteer at least one year.

For more information, call 965-6610. A new training kicks off March 23 with four sessions to be held March 25, 31 and April 2 at 5:30 p.m.

• Cross-Timbers Family Services (CTFS) 

CTFS is a victims’ service agency that provides hope, help and healing for victims of crime, including family violence, sexual assault and child abuse through free and confidential services including a 24-hour crisis hotline and 24-hour victim assistance and crisis counseling. Other services include safe shelter for victims of violent crime, counseling by a licensed professional, advocacy by specially trained professionals, criminal justice support and advocacy, human services information and referral, support and therapeutic groups, Crime Victims Compensation Assistance, medical accompaniments, protective order assistance and safety planning.

Volunteers must be 18 or older, never have been convicted of a crime, have strong written and verbal communication skills, attend 40 hours of initial training; including classroom, self-study and on-the-job training, attend six hours of additional training annually, attend volunteer quarterly meetings and commit to at least one year of volunteer services.

On-call Volunteers:

Hotline volunteers assist by phone only, providing crisis intervention, information and referral to victims. Victim assistance volunteers may be called by local law enforcement agencies or the hospital to provide immediate crisis intervention to victims and family members.

For more information, call CTFS Volunteer Coordinator Taysha Williams at 965-5516 or stop by the office at 1794 N. Graham.

• The Helping Place Counseling Services 

The Helping Place provides counseling, education and advocacy for individuals, couples, families and crime victims and offers an array of services for young mothers and cancer survivors, as well as anger management counseling

The Helping Place needs volunteers to assist with supervised visitation at the office and also needs individuals to help with general office duties.

Volunteers must be 18 years old and pass a background check.

For more information, call 965-9691 or visit the office at 154 E. Washington Street.

• Hook Elementary Mentoring Program -

For six years, Hook Elementary students have been enjoying the success of improved reading skills thanks to the help of volunteers. Each week, community members from all walks of life visit the campus to mentor the students in a one-on-one setting.  

Teachers choose students that would most benefit from a reading buddy. The buddy simply visits the campus weekly, typically on Tuesday or Wednesday, sits with their child or children for about an hour (per student), reads with them, answer questions and help overcome reading hurdles.  

The program is open to anybody who loves children, from older students to senior citizens. Times vary but mentoring does take place during the school day, typically from noon until 3 p.m. Volunteers may sign up to help out with one child or multiple children.

Patience and a background check are required.

For more information, contact the school at 968-3213

• Meals on Wheels 

Volunteers deliver fresh meals to the elderly and disabled in Erath County. Meals on Wheels needs help delivering meals throughout the county. Meals on Wheels has offices in Stephenville and Dublin and delivers daily to clients in both cities and to rural clients once a week.

Volunteers must have their own vehicle, a driver’s license and proof of insurance. A typical route takes 45 minutes to one hour to complete.

For more information, call the Stephenville office at 965-3510 or the Dublin office at 445-2898. 

• Stephenville Chamber of Commerce

The Stephenville Chamber of Commerce plays a vital role in the continued growth and development of the City of Champions. The chamber is a non-profit organization that relies on the community to keep events and services running and is always looking for helping hands.

Volunteering with the chamber offers excellent networking opportunities and community service hours.

The chamber accepts smiling faces from all walks of life and calls each and every volunteer a crucial part of the organization.

For more information, call 965-5313.

• Stephenville Historical Museum

In an effort to continue preserving history at home, the Stephenville Historical Museum is always looking for a little help. The museum is fully funded by a 1 percent dividend of the Stephenville Hotel and Motel Tax and charitable donations.

The museum can benefit from volunteers to help keep the grounds clean, assist with landscaping, painting exhibits, manning the telephone, running errands, inspecting buildings and exhibits for damage and needed repairs, to serve as tour guides, cleaning artifacts and displays.

For more information, call 965-5880 or stop by the museum at 525 E. Washington Street.  

• Stephenville Public Library

Anyone with a love of reading should consider giving a little time to the public library. The library relies on volunteers for book repair, shelving, and keeping things in order. For more information, call the library at 918-1240.

• Other volunteer opportunities:

Tree House After School Care Program, contact LeAnn Pate at 965-9756; Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Auxiliary, contact Mike Hannah at 965-1500;

Head Start, contact Mary Castorena at 965-5896 ext. 206; Cross Timbers Pregnancy Care Center, contact Crystal Rose at 965-6031; HOPE Inc., contact Jill Scott at 965-2700.