When Marana became a town in 1977, it drew from the ranks of its 1,500 rural residents to pitch in and create the new community. Old-timers still speak with admiration of the volunteers who stepped forward to run the lumbering road grader over Marana's dirt roads and the folks who donated their time to serve as town clerk.
The population has grown tenfold now, most of the roads are paved and the town clerk draws a salary, but Marana is still seeking to harness that same small-town spirit of volunteerism through its new CREW program - Citizen Resource and Education Workshop - expected to begin in early April.
Marana Town Clerk Jocelyn Entz, who will oversee the program, said CREW is intended to provide citizens with insight into the inner workings of town government and other Marana organizations and to offer opportunities for residents to volunteer their services.
"There are so many people in our community with the expertise to do just about anything," Entz told a group of business leaders at a Marana Chamber of Commerce luncheon Jan. 16. "We need those kinds of skills in the town so we as staff can do our jobs better."
The program will be free and participants will attend workshops two to three hour hours per week over an eight-to-10 week period, Entz said. Each week, citizens will be introduced to the workings of a town department or other Marana public service organization, such as the Marana Health Center, Marana Food Bank or the Marana Unified School District.
Each organization also will explain the types of volunteer work needed, allowing citizens to garner a better idea of where their skills or interests may mesh best.
Residents who have completed the program and are interested in volunteering their services will attend a final session set up as a volunteer orientation and be expected to make a commitment to offer their service for a set period of time.
Entz said the program is still in its infancy, and she's seeking ideas from the community on what areas people might be interested in volunteering, and what skills they might be able to offer.
A tentative plan approved by the Marana Town Council Dec. 3 envisions workshops held at different locations. One week might find potential volunteers at town hall seeing how council agendas are set and attending a town council meeting. Another week would lead citizens to the Marana-Northwest Regional Airport for insight into its operation and how volunteers could best be utilized there.
"People could attend council meetings and meet the council and get an idea of how they make decisions from the dais. I would like to get our town attorney involved to show people how we put together town resolutions and ordinances," Entz said.
The idea for CREW came after Entz attended an "innovations in government" seminar in Oro Valley last spring, she said. The concept was propelled further after Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr. gave his state of the town address Nov. 12 and called on residents to become more active in the community.
Volunteers already abound in Marana, from those who serve as board members for the Marana Arts Council and Business Advisory Committee, to folks who turn out each year to help run annual events such as the Fourth of July Spectacular and Founders' Day celebration.
Marana Town Manager Mike Hein said CREW would serve as a way of further channeling and expanding the volunteer spirit that exists in the town.
"We're hoping to further engage the community by giving them a sense of familiarity with their local government while allowing us at the same time to tap the tremendous amount of human capital and enthusiasm that exists in the town," Hein said.
"It's the start of even more programs that the town contemplates implementing that are all geared toward getting citizens involved in local governance."
Bill Derfus, a public information officer for the Marana Police Department, said the town is exploring ways to link MPD's successful Citizens' Police Academy to the CREW program and to a planned expansion of volunteers in the police department.
The academy, now in its fifth year, is a series of seminars intended to provide citizens a better understanding of the workings of the Marana Police Department, Derfus said.
Ron Smith, Marana's Parks and Recreation Department director, said he's excited by the potential of the CREW concept.
"I think it's a fabulous idea, we have so many programs operating right now where we think volunteers could really be a perfect fit, from helping us get our trails program off the ground to helping out with our seniors at the community center. There's a lot of rewarding opportunities available," Smith said.
Entz said she has high hope for the CREW program, noting that "in many ways we're still a small town where people help each other out."
She may be right. Immediately after Entz finished her presentation at the Marana Chamber luncheon last week, Joan Hale, owner of e-Media Services, walked up and handed her business card to Entz.
"Here you go, I want to volunteer to print brochures to help get the word out about the program," Hale said.
For more information, or to offer input on how the CREW program can best serve the community, contact the Marana Town Clerk's office, 682-3401.