Albion Interactive History / Organizations / Albion Volunteer Service Organization

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Organizations

Albion Volunteer Service Organization, 1988

Albion Volunteer Service Organization (AVSO) was founded in 1988 as ananswer to the community’s need for a multi-purpose center to provide supportto Albion’s nonprofit organizations. Because most of Albion’s communitygroups are completely volunteer, there was a need for equipment, servicesand office/storage space that few could afford on their own. Further, groupssought volunteers and resources for their programs and events, but had nocentralized place where requests could be matched or where interestedvolunteers could learn about community opportunities.

Where has AVSO come since its inception? The Volunteer Center is now ahub of activity for the many groups that provide human services, arts andculture, recreation, youth development, health and wellness, beautification,and city improvement. While 45 groups are members, AVSO serves over 100organizations and 40 churches in the Albion area. Hundreds of people walkthrough our doors, and at least 30 meetings take place in our conference roomeach month. We are one of the few nonprofit organizations whose missionextends to serve all members of our community.

AVSO has become part of the problem-solving network of our area, as well.With links to so many organizations, we are able to convene partnerships thatcollaborate to serve individuals, families and issues. An integral part of thecommunity, we are aware of both local and county resources that can assistindividuals and community organizations. We have become a clearinghousefor volunteerism, a nonprofit resource and management center, a referralsource for information, a facilitator of human service projects, and an incubatorfor nonprofit programs.

AVSO is committed to the overriding belief in Albion’s future as a model smallcity built on the value of multiculturalism and interdependence. This reflectsour respect for the contributions that all of our citizens can make to a strongand healthy community, and our job in assisting them to reach out and torespond to each other.

For more information about the Albion Volunteer Service Organization, contact:

History of the AVSO
In 1985, David Moore, then the President of the Albion Civic Foundation, had his firstidea for a volunteer service center in Albion. The foundation was having growingpains and he was the third president in a row to end his term suggesting to the boardof trustees that the Civic Foundation needed at least a part-time staff member. Inconsidering where to put an executive, however, they kept running up against theexpense of establishing an office. The foundation had funds, but could not haveoutfitted and staffed an office without seriously diminishing its grant budget. Duringthe early 1980s Moore had also served on the board of the Albion-Homer UnitedWay, which had earlier had a part-time executive and office, but had eliminated themin 1980 due to financial constraints.

The idea that the two organizations might share an office and staff was not a verystartling one, and it was not much of a leap from there to consider that otherorganizations might join the venture.

In 1986, the Foundation began seriously to consider hiring an Executive Secretary,and at a trustees’ meeting in mid-February that year Moore briefly outlined the idea ofa cooperative office for non-profit organizations. After the meeting, Nan Vulgamore(Former First Lady of Albion College), then a trustee, pointedly suggested that hedescribe the idea in a letter to her husband, President Mel Vulgamore of AlbionCollege. By then, there had already been discussions between Albion College andthe W.K. Kellogg Foundation about a college-community grant proposal of somekind. Moore wrote that letter on February 17, 1987.

It was very soon thereafter that Dan Poteet, the former Provost of Albion College,began convening groups of people (college and community separately, at first; thentogether) to talk about college-community relationships, civic relationships, civicresponsibility and service opportunities, and leadership development. Thosemeetings continued approximately every other week through the spring of 1986. Inthe course of those sessions the participants put together information about thecommunity’s non-profit organizations, and Poteet asked that Moore draft a moredetailed proposal, which was submitted May 21, 1986. By then, it was clear that thegroup was helping to develop a grant proposal to be submitted to the W.K. KelloggFoundation. Drafts of the proposal, written by Dr. Poteet, were circulated and therewere a few more meetings over the ensuing year to make refinements. Word that thegrand had been approved was received May 22, 1987.

In June 1987 Moore was asked to convene representatives of the most obviousprospective users of a volunteer center, with a view to beginning operations by theend of 1987. That meeting was held June 19, 1987, in the community room ofHomestead Savings & Loan Association. Present were Tom McClure (AlbionCommunity Theatre), Nancy Poteet (Albion Civic Foundation), Jean Taylor (Albion-Homer United Way), Richard Weatherford (Citizens to Beautify Albion), Susan Mize(Festival of the Forks), Dan Poteet and David Moore. McClure, Mize, Weatherfordand Moore were designated as a steering committee. In August they circulated aquestionnaire to twenty-seven organizations, surveying their needs and wants andsoliciting their ideas for the center. A second meeting was held September 11, 1987,again at Homestead, with seventeen organizations represented. The survey results(based on 15 responses) were presented, and an organizational board of nine peoplewas selected by consensus. The nine were then formally appointed by Dan Poteet asadministrators of the Kellogg grant program (still unnamed) to guide the project in itsfirst year.

That board began meeting approximately biweekly. It considered needs forequipment and furnishings, the amount of space required and its allocation to varioususes, the structure of an organization, possible methods of financing the center,services to be provided, and the qualifications and job descriptions of staff. A jobdescription for the coordinator was drafted by a subcommittee, appointed by theorganizational board, and submitted to Dan Poteet. Another subcommittee developeda list of equipment furnishings and prepared a budget with the assistance of PeggySindt, then the college’s purchasing director. We gave information to Ken Kolmodinat Albion College for an analysis of our space needs, and he recommended that weseek a facility of about 1,575 square feet. We took that information to AlbionDowntown, which was then functioning under Craig Hoernschemyer’s direction.There were still numerous vacant buildings in the business district, and we looked atfour of them on October 20, 1987: 108 S. Superior St. (the former Albion Pastry Co.),203 S. Superior Street (the former Central Party Store), 225 S. Superior St. (theformer Rascal’s children’s clothing store), and 223 S. Superior Street (the formerHenry’s Fashion Shop). The buildings at 225 and 203 were identified as our first andsecond choices, respectively. With Ken Kolmodin’s help we evaluated the suitability ofthe structures in terms of renovations and construction that would be needed.However, circumstances dictated the choice in early November. The Rascal’sclothing shop was leased, and the Albion Civic Foundation decided to purchase thebuilding at 203 S. Superior, with the Volunteer Center in mind as a tenant.Meanwhile, the steering committee again submitted a questionnaire to prospectiveparticipants, seeking their preferences and suggestions concerning a cooperativestructure of some kind. Responses were sparser than to the questionnaire aboutfacilities and equipment, and it was becoming obvious that organizations did not havethe resources to bear the full cost of operating the center, and probably never would.It was also clear that the plan to open the center by the end of 1987 was unrealistic.By late January 1988, the foundation had completed purchase of the Central PartyStore building and had arranged with Dick Mitchell of Mitchell Associates Architects,Ann Arbor, for design work. Most of the budget for renovation was provided for in theKellogg grant, but the foundation made some investment as well.The College had advertised for two positions, administer of the entire Kellogg grantproject and coordinator of the volunteer center. Ginny Tunnicliff was appointedInterim Project Administrator/Coordinator.

Candidates for the coordinator position were interviewed by the organizational boardin mid-February 1988. The position was offered to Linda Shelles, a member of theorganizational board, and she resigned from the board to accept it. A committeeworked with Mitchell to develop the building plans, and bids were solicited in lateApril. The bids were much above budget, and the plans had to be simplified and anew price negotiated. The board adopted the name “Albion Volunteer ServiceOrganization” for itself and “Albion Volunteer Service Center” for the center to beopened. In June, the board learned that asbestos had been discovered in thebuilding, which necessitated extra work before construction could begin.The center opened without fanfare the first week of November in 1988. Theorganizational board held its first meeting at the center November 10, 1988 — the thirdmeeting to be held at the center. Finishing touches were still being completed on thebuilding. Evening hours at the center began the following week with volunteerstaffing.

A grand opening was held December 3, 1988.The Kellogg Grant expired May 31, 1993. The AVSO assumed completeresponsibility for administering the center on June 1. Equipment and furnishings wereturned over to the organization by Albion College, which had owned them as granteeof the Kellogg Foundation, to be used indefinitely in the center’s operations.

Board of Directors
Sarah Briggs , President
Jim Arnett, Vice President
Maggie LaNoue, Secretary
Ralph Cram, Treasurer
Cheryl Bell
Robert Bushong
Dale Kennedy
Brenda Merrild
Jan Shedd
Stanley Sims
Blanche Wilson
Jenny Tobin, Ex Officio

Alfredia Dysart-Drake, Executive Director
Judy McGuigan, Office Manager
Tamra Persing, Bookkeeper/Clerk
Sybil Sanders, SCSEP Clerical Assistant
Angela Cole, AmeriCorp Promise Fellow

Source: AVSO web site,, [downloaded 8/11/2003].