By Laura Newman
DURHAM, N.C. — Durham residents often point to good neighbors and a sense of community as reasons they love the area.
A strong volunteer base strengthens those important bonds, says Stephen Raburn, the new executive director of the Volunteer Center of Durham, which has been facilitating volunteerism in the area for 39 years.
“Essentially, the Volunteer Center bridges the gap between the nonprofit and public sectors and the private community,” he says. “It acts as a hub of activity for the nonprofit community.”
The center does that by providing training, resources and fundraising opportunities, as well as volunteer recruitment and management, to dozens of local organizations.
Raburn, who joined the center Nov. 1, is charged with enhancing its image, increasing funding, encouraging community support and expanding programs.
“Stephen brings the expertise necessary to grow our agency so that it can continue to meet the challenges and demands of our rapidly expanding community,” says Sarah Fish, president of the center’s board. “We are thrilled to have him come on board.”
Raburn is a veteran nonprofit administrator, serving most recently as the founding executive director of the Center for Child Advocacy and Research in Napa, Calif.
The Volunteer Center’s programs include Durham traditions like Share Your Christmas, where volunteers purchase gifts for families they have “adopted,” and The Great Human Race, a 5K run or walk that raises about $70,000 each year to support local nonprofit agencies.
To lead the center effectively, Raburn says, he will pay close attention to the interests of the staff, board of directors and community.
The greatest challenge, he says, will be finding the means to support Durham’s needs.
“The demands are great,” he says. “And in any community, there is never enough — enough volunteers, enough money, enough resources.”
As he gets settled in Durham, Raburn says, he plans to get to know the nonprofits and other major players in the community and explore possible partnerships to meet these demands.
Durham is a city on the move, and is increasingly investing in itself to become even better, he says.
“What interested me in this position,” he says, “is the opportunity to help build a strong, collaborative, functional community.”