Volunteer Center Organization

The level of independent, organized volunteer involvement is dependent on previously available resources. In the best-case scenario, most tasks will be outsourced, the case will have a speedy, safe resolution and you can take pride in your participation. However, as you work toward a quick recovery assess your resources and consider the steps that will be necessary if the child is not quickly recovered, so that you may seamlessly move the volunteer agenda forward without wasted time or energy.

If the missing child is not recovered quickly and you have to create a fully functional, multi-tasking volunteer center in quick time, you will have to start fitting the pieces of the puzzle together so that you establish a viable business enterprise with defined goals. This is a very good time to begin logging your progress and decisions on a computer so that they are easily referenced later on, through simple journal notes or more complex databases and spreadsheets.

  • Mission: To find the child, of course;
  • Leadership: You will need structure, somebody has to be in charge;
  • Volunteer Center: Centrally located, away from the family home;
  • Critical Relationships: You will be interacting with family, law enforcement, media, business and volunteers.
  • Critical Personnel: Key personnel, job descriptions;


Your mission is to find the missing child.


Volunteers bound in crisis can prove a volatile mix. When children disappear many factors motivate volunteers to help: an incident in their past; unemployment hence free time; family or personal friendship; unique talents or abilities; adrenalin junkies or many other reasons. The bottom line is that they want to be part of something bigger than themselves; they want to do something good and important; they want to help.

With competent, organized leadership a vigorous, experience rich and motivated work or volunteer force can achieve positive, significant results. Structure, a chain of command and tangible goals have to be quickly established if momentum is going to be maintained, so once it is determined that an extended effort is necessary, schedule a leadership meeting with key volunteers and at least one parent or other prominent member of the missing child’s family.

This volunteer forum is an emotionally volatile opportunity for everybody in attendance to take charge and declare him or herself leader. Although the adrenalin is surging, defer to the purpose and look to the missing child’s family for direction. Although they may not be able to attend to minutia and detail for a variety of obvious reasons, they represent the goal, have by far the greatest investment in the room and must have confidence in and trust whoever emerges as the Volunteer Leader.

The Volunteer Leader is a liaison between the family, law enforcement, media and the volunteer base: a warrior-diplomat not easily intimidated and willing to invest significant amounts of time and energy to a seemingly impossible task. If you are the Volunteer Leader you inspire confidence as you control the chaos by delegating responsibility and making critical decisions.

Volunteer Center:

Now you need to establish a command post. To reiterate, find a location away from the family home.

  • The family telephone may be the only link a missing child has to his or her family, so that line must remain available.
  • Because of the extreme financial and emotional demands that a kidnapping makes on the family of the missing child, they need to be insulated from the constant demands made upon their time and energy.
  • Kidnappers are diabolical predators who sometimes revisit the scene to relive the crime vicariously, so it is important to keep strangers out of the family home.
  • This is why you should also photograph and fingerprint everybody who volunteers to assist with the recovery effort.
  • Find a neutral, centrally located vacant storefront in a strip mall to set up your volunteer center. This type of location is usually equipped with adequate utilities including; multiple phone jacks and electrical outlets, running water and lavatory facilities.
  • Make sure that the electricity is engaged and that phone lines are installed. In the best scenario, you will need at least two phone lines with broadband access. This way you can run simultaneous phone, fax and Internet operations.
  • You will also need adequate parking for volunteers and easy access to business and hospitality services.

Critical Relationships:

Try to establish a relationship with law enforcement by identifying an officer assigned to the case that is supportive of community involvement. Initially, they may mistrust or misinterpret your motives and discourage participation. You can overcome resistance and build trust by focusing on tasks that support their investigation such as:

  • Offering family support;
  • Assisting with flyer creation, distribution and tracking;
  • Coordinating the community’s role in the recovery effort, and;
  • Setting up an informational website for the missing child.

Assign a literate and media savvy volunteer to work as a liaison with reporters, assignment editors and producers to help coordinate news coverage. They should initially secure assignment desk phone and fax numbers so that they can issue relevant press advisories. The goal is to coordinate media activities by:

  • Providing flyers;
  • Notifying the media about candle light vigils or other community activities,
  • Promoting fundraising activities or
  • Organizing interviews.

Network with the local business community, civic organizations, the Chamber of Commerce and religious organizations to secure the tools of the trade through in-kind donations. Do not delude yourself into thinking that you can requisition brand new or even nearly new equipment, but neither should you settle for junk. Make sure that anything you accept is functional and adequate to the task because there are always people and organizations trying to unload garbage. Your critical needs will include:

  • Telephones; cell phones, facsimile machine, copier, scanner, computer hardware and software, office furniture and business supplies;
  • A coffee maker, small refrigerator and recurring supplies of water;
  • Cleaning supplies, light bulbs, paper plates, cups and utensils;
  • Access to and maintenance of utility services.