If you visit a library or animal shelter in Plano, chances are a volunteer has helped you find what you needed. The city of Plano says a record number of people are giving their time -- and those hours are worth millions to taxpayers.
Lea Anne DeVega volunteers for Plano Animal Services doing everything from laundry and dog walking to providing adoption counseling.
"I love to see people put with dogs that are meant for them and I love to see these babies get their forever homes," DeVega said.
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She spends a few hours every weekend at the shelter and has done so consistently for more than six years.
"I would be here all the time if I didn't work full time because I just love it," she said.
DeVega is one of the 10,513 people who volunteered 106,200 hours in 2018. A record for the city's volunteer program, which has been in existence for 36 years.
"When you think about adding 10,513 people to the city of Plano staff, which is around 2,000, that increases our capacity to deliver more programs and services," Plano volunteer resources supervisor Corina Sadler said.
The number of volunteers in 2018 marked a 28 percent increase over the prior year. Sadler said mild weather helped turn out more volunteers. She also believed the addition of more corporate headquarters in Collin County brought new residents who were eager to learn more about their city.
Sadler said volunteers help free up city staff for more specialized work and help expand services.
"We can offer things like math tutoring, we can make sure every dog at the animal shelter is walked, we can provide a chemical reuse center which gives out free items," Sadler explained. "A lot of these services are operated by volunteers and that just increases our capacity to reach and benefit more citizens."
Sadler estimated the hours volunteers gave last year were worth $2,616,768 to taxpayers. The estimate is based on the volunteer rate calculated by Independent Sector, a nonprofit membership organization.
Sadler said there's an added benefit to including volunteers in city programs: transparency between the residents and city government.
"They see their tax dollars at work. They're behind the scenes at our five libraries, at our police department, at the animal shelter and they really understand what that means," Sadler said.