Genoans seek clarification of volunteer policy

The patron saint of Candy Dance, Lillian Virgin Finnegan’s statue watches over downtown Genoa on Thursday morning.

The patron saint of Candy Dance, Lillian Virgin Finnegan’s statue watches over downtown Genoa on Thursday morning.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Genoans railed against applying Douglas County’s volunteer policy to Candy Dance on Wednesday.

The town is seeking a presentation on the policy from Douglas County Human Resources, including an explanation about what changed.

The county policy requiring background checks, including fingerprinting, was approved on May 19, 2011, and contained all of the requirements Genoans cited as issues on Wednesday.

And it’s not the first time the town has sought an exemption from the county policy.

On May 14, 2010, The Record-Courier reported that the town was seeking changes in the policy before it was approved.

Enforcement was left to department heads after the policy’s approval, which led to wildly varied application.

In Genoa, it was essentially ignored as volunteers would turn up and make candy or move bales of hay for events and then leave.

Some county volunteers weren’t being required to undergo background checks, which led to enforcement being shifted from individual departments to human resources.

Complicating the issue was a delay in processing fingerprints for volunteers and employees.

In February, Citizen Emergency Response Team members complained about the process. 

In April, county commissioners revised the policy to create tiers of volunteers depending on what they were doing.

Those working with children and vulnerable populations require more extensive checks.

In Genoa, Interim Town Manager Amanda Reid said she has been exploring possibilities to prevent the requirement from denting the town’s 200-volunteer pool for Candy Dance.

“My goal is to recruit at least 20 volunteers, and maybe more, who are willing and able to go through the background check for the county, which will include fingerprinting.”

Those volunteers would then be able to supervise and manage volunteers who don’t go through the process.

The Friends of Genoa Board of Directors rejected an agreement with the town on Tuesday to manage the volunteers. The county policy doesn’t extend to nonprofits.

“After much discussion, the FOG Board determined that while there’s a lot we can do to support the town through the process of planning Candy Dance, we can’t sign the memorandum as presented by the town,” said President Elaine Shively. “We were grateful for the opportunity to help and I’m sure we can help. There are many members of the board who are willing to help.”

She said around half of the board members have agreed to go through the process, which would bring the total of volunteer managers to around 10, bringing the town to the halfway point.

Residents pointed out that Candy Dance operated with volunteers for a century without background checks.

However, for the first four-fifths of that time, the event was entirely operated by volunteers. It wasn’t until the town hired a manager earlier this century and included Candy Dance in the responsibilities that there was significant involvement from an actual governmental entity.

Candy Dance, which is Sept. 24-25 this year, raises the bulk of Genoa’s budget, which goes to help maintain the town.

Most of the revenue comes from the rental of vendor booths, but the town also sells around a ton of candy made by volunteers.

Founded in 1919 to raise money for streetlights, the event originally consisted of a dance and dinner. It continued for decades in that form until 1974 when the craft fair was added to help pay for the town’s activities. 



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