If you go

What: Volunteer Expo

When: Noon-3 p.m. Jan. 27

Where: Downtown Bend Library, 601 NW Wall St., Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: 541-617-7080 or deschuteslibrary.org

If you’ve ever considered volunteering, or you’re still of a “new year, new me” mind, Deschutes Public Library’s Volunteer Expo on Jan. 27 could be of service.

The free event, in its 11th year, will be larger than ever, with representatives from 29 Central Oregon nonprofits on hand to speak with prospective volunteers.

Think of it as a kind of speed dating for people interested in giving back.

Participating organizations include Bethlehem Inn, Commute Options, Deschutes Land Trust, High Desert Robotics Expositions, Sisters Folk Festival and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (see sidebar for complete list).

In past years, the expos have been limited to 20 or fewer nonprofits due to the space restrictions of the Downtown Bend Library’s Brooks Room, according to Liisa Sjoblom, a community librarian and the expo’s co-organizer. “This year, we are actually expanding into the lobby because we did a small remodeling project and got some additional furniture in the building, and we have more tables.”

About 150 to 200 people visit with nonprofits during the three-hour event, which is likewise popular with the public: There’s a waiting list of nine more organizations hoping to make it in the library doors.

“We do an evaluation form at the end of every year, and some of the comments have been it’s their best recruiting they’ve ever done, they talked to a lot of people,” Sjoblom said.

Bethlehem Inn is among the returning organizations, and Courtney Gallant, community engagement coordinator at the homeless shelter, will represent the inn for the third consecutive year.

Shelter volunteers perform an array of tasks that include individuals running the front desk and families coming together to serve meals prepared in the new commercial kitchen.

Others perform odd jobs, sort clothing donations or wash and fold linens.

Though Bethlehem Inn has in the neighborhood of 2,000 volunteers, Gallant sees the volunteer expo as highly important.

“The library expo is always really well done, so it always brings in a few new folks to help us out, and most of them end up being longtime volunteers,” she said.

About half the people she visits with at the expo come in knowing the type of organization they’d like to serve, she said, “and then they look into those organizations that meet that mission or passion of theirs. The other half are just looking for different opportunities and using it as more of an exploratory for getting into volunteering here in the area. I do notice a lot of newcomers, folks new to Central Oregon, come to the expo.”

Regardless of where they come from, “Most of the folks that I engage with at the expo do become volunteers,” Gallant said,

Sjoblom noted the variety of nonprofits participating in the expo.

“We never end up with a huge number of the same type of organizations. We always end up with a good variety of choices,” she said.

If someone has a particular interest — say the outdoors, animal welfare, cultural preservation or helping the less fortunate — it’s likely an expo participant has a related mission.

Over the years, participating agencies have cycled through, Sjoblom said.

“Some organizations have found it’s not the best place for them to recruit volunteers,” she said.

“We’ve had a couple of organizations (whose) needs were so specific … it had to be someone coming in with specialty skills.”

If you think you’re too busy to squeeze in volunteering, a 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that you think again.

“We compared spending time on other people with wasting time, spending time on oneself, and even gaining a windfall of ‘free’ time, and we found that spending time on others increases one’s feeling of time affluence,” the authors of the study wrote.

“Giving time makes people more willing to commit to future engagements despite their busy schedules.”

If you’re unable to make it to the volunteer expo but still interested in lending a hand, online resources for area volunteer opportunities include volunteercentraloregon.org (an organization that will be present at the expo) and bendbulletin.com/volunteer.

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com