Home > Press Release > The City of Fort Lauderdale and the Neighbor Volunteer Office by Ryan Henderson

The City of Fort Lauderdale and the Neighbor Volunteer Office by Ryan Henderson

The City of Fort Lauderdale and the Neighbor Volunteer Office by Ryan Henderson



In late 2009, I made the decision that my first year after college was going to be spent volunteering. The idea came to me my senior year after reading a biography on Robert Kennedy. My burgeoning admiration for Robert Kennedy, and the causes he fought for, solidified my desire to embark on a career in public service. His later-life commitment to the poor and their communities inspired me towards emulation. After toying with the idea of traveling to a far off country for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I decided to stay stateside and leave the biggest mark I could by becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA. The year was perhaps the most profound of my life, as I volunteered in a rural, remote place in West Virginia. My experience furthered my love of public service and commitment to community. I spent the year not just volunteering hard for my organization, the Pocahontas County Communications Cooperative, but I also created life-long relationships with others who shared similar passions for volunteering. My volunteer experience made me realize that the country was being changed by those who made sacrifices for their community.

Four years later, far from the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, I find myself in Fort Lauderdale working in City Hall and continuing to be inspired by the volunteer experience. I learned quickly that “Volunteerism is the Spirit of Fort Lauderdale” and that it’s been that way for many years. To help get the most out of that spirit, and to formalize the operations of volunteers across the City, the Neighbor Volunteer Office (NVO) was established in 2013. The office was created to recruit volunteers and establish organized volunteer projects throughout the City. The Fort Lauderdale NVO is led by the Chief Services Officer, Jorg Hruschka. Hruschka oversees the day-to-day work of the NVO and works constantly to help willing participants find volunteer opportunities throughout the City. In the simplest of terms, the NVO was created to put volunteers, who actively want to make a difference, in opportunities that fit their interests and passions. For volunteers who want to participate in public activities that may not know their passion, Hruschka helps them find it.

“The most exhilarating experience is to work with neighbors to help them find their passion in life, and then enable them to take action to make a difference in an area that is important to them,” said Hruschka. “I am blessed to be able to build community one neighbor and one neighborhood at a time. It’s like throwing a pebble into the pond and watching the ripples spread out over the smooth, calm surface. Each conversation that inspired someone to take action is like a pebble, and I love throwing pebbles.”

In the NVO’s first year it has increased public participation in the City by developing programs and activities such as: F.L. 55 Club, Adopt-A-Neighbor, Beach Cleanups, Arm Chair Athlete, Adopt-A-Street, and Make a Difference Mentoring. All programs are driven by those who take time out of their day to participate in the civic process by volunteering. The NVO has attracted thousands of eager neighbors from all over the City and placed them in position to serve. On any given weekend you’ll find volunteers participating throughout the City, doing what they love and helping build community. The NVO has become a key component of the drive to make the City more neighbor-centric.

Like my time in West Virginia, my time in Fort Lauderdale has showed me how important volunteers are to a community and how comradery develops when volunteers work together. Our volunteers are building community and making a difference. Recently the City of Fort Lauderdale held “Fort Lauderdale Makes a Difference Day” where volunteers from all over the City volunteered in unison on projects they were passionate about. One of the groups that participated during the day was “Westminster Academy,” where students volunteered to remove litter from a neighborhood block adjacent to their school. After their cleanup, the principal of Westminster Academy sent me an email writing that the kids had a great time and that “the students really felt like part of something big.” That’s what volunteering is all about; it’s public participation where the participants feel they are part of something grand. I felt that way when I was a VISTA. Our neighbors are feeling that way thanks to the Neighbor Volunteer Office.

  1. Monique
    December 3, 2014 at 9:35 am

    What a great write up Ryan! After working so closely with you over the past couple of years I have learned that you have such an enthusiastic public spirit and a compassion for helping others. Your dedication to helping folks is so admirable and inspiring. I’m confident that no matter where you go or what you do, you’ll be a huge success. I would be happy to work with you anytime, any place. Thanks for sharing your story.

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