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Updates on Volunteer Service

It’s been a challenging year, with many MGEV events and activities canceled due to COVID-19 health concerns. Your spirit and dedication to the MGEV program are commendable! Circumstances are fluid, and guidelines have changed frequently. We have all been waiting to hear when volunteer service can resume and what MGEVs can do.

Exciting news, everyone!! Extension has been approved to resume face-to-face programming, including MGEV meetings, activities, and events for the public, following university protocols! We are all committed to keeping everyone healthy and safe, so we will have a few extra steps for MGEV activities. Please understand that Extension personnel are following university and local requirements that can change from day to day. Please contact your agent or program coordinator prior to planning or implementing any new meeting, activity, or event for the public.

We will continue to use our Project Proposal Form to request approval for an event (even if it has already received pre-COVID-19 approval). Your agent or program coordinator will then review each event or activity to ensure that it meets the required health and safety guidelines issued by the University System of Georgia. Our events and activities will observe current procedures for health and safety of personnel, volunteers, and public participants.

We will take extra health and sanitation measures to protect our volunteers, employees, and participants. Wearing of masks, appropriate distances, observing maximum room occupancy, and utilizing contactless processes will become part of our routines. Agents have received a list of guidelines and are required to complete a checklist for each Extension event. Again, it is important that you work with your agent and program coordinator to plan an educational event for the public.

Like all UGA employees, MGEVs are expected to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. If you feel ill or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, please refrain from participating in-person events. If you do volunteer and then become ill, please follow procedures for communicating with your agent.

We understand that resuming volunteer service as a MGEV is a personal choice and that every volunteer may not choose to serve actively at this time. MGEVs who themselves or someone with whom they live are in a high risk category as defined by the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html) may not wish to return to volunteer service roles that involve personal interactions at this time. 

For those who do return to volunteer service, please know that it is important to report volunteer service punctually and accurately in the spirit of knowing who is serving with whom. Please record your service hours within two days of volunteering. We ask that you use the “description” field of each volunteer hours entry in MGLOG to note the project/activity location (for example, not all project names will tell us which site, such as a community or demonstration garden) and the approximate time of day when you were there (i.e., 10 am – 1 pm).

Given the limited opportunities to volunteer this year, we have made these exceptions to our program criteria:

  • Individuals who trained during 2020 have until December 31, 2021, to complete the initial 50 hours of volunteer service for obtaining the MGEV title.
  • Individuals who trained during 2019 who have not completed the initial 50 hours of volunteer service for obtaining the MGEV title have until December 31, 2021, to complete a total of 75 hours. This is to satisfy the original service requirement and to be considered a current, active MGEV.
  • MGEVs who entered 2020 in good standing will not be penalized for volunteering less than 25 hours during 2020, but are encouraged to do what they can.
  • Individuals who do not wish to volunteer at this time may request Inactive Status (see Georgia MGEV Program Policies for additional information). Contact your agent or program coordinator to make this request.
  • Update of Risk Management Training (RMT) is required to retain active status in 2020 and is not optional. Anyone who has not completed RMT prior to October 1, 2020, will automatically be converted to inactive status.

Please be advised that these exceptions do not apply to keeping your Background Investigation (BI) current. USG Board of Regents has stipulated that BIs (required of MGEVs) remain valid when voluntary service occurs at least once every 120 days. There is no exception for the COVID-19 pandemic. Any individuals who do not meet UGA Extension Voluntary Service Guidelines will be required to complete a new BI to resume MGEV service.

Fortunately, we do have ways to keep the BIs current. Things that MGEVs do on a regular and ongoing basis will meet these criteria, such as:

  • Virtual service, such as project planning meetings with other MGEVs using FaceTime or Zoom or  giving an online lunch-n-learn presentation
  • In-person participation in projects (yes, we understand that these have been unavailable in recent months)
  • Training participation, including the update of Risk Management Training (RMT), Advanced Training, and even Regional Leadership Conferences

We understand that resuming volunteer service as a MGEV is a personal choice and at the discretion of each volunteer. Ultimately, your health is vitally important. If it is in your best interest to wait a little longer, we support you in that. On the other hand, if you feel confident in returning to volunteer service, we look forward to seeing you soon!

Thank you to each of you for your patience and support during this unusual season!

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sdorn

About sdorn

Sheri is the State Coordinator for the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program and Extension Specialist for Consumer Ornamentals. When she is not traveling about the state of Georgia admiring the work of Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, she spends time in her own (real and virtual) gardens.