Volunteer Center director Brenda Ratliff retiring after 30 years — mostly

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — We don’t always agree on everything here in this community Where We Live, but one thing you hear often is how giving this place can be, and it’s true. Who are the people that make that happen? One is Brenda Ratliff.

Ratliff probably had no choice but to be one of those people. Her mother was a lifelong volunteer and public servant. Her late husband, a minister, was in the serving people business. And Ratliff herself started volunteering as a young adult.

No shock, then, that she stayed in the volunteerism business long enough to become executive director of the Volunteer Center of Kern County.  No surprise, either, that she stayed 30 years.  And no shock that, even as she cleans out her desk to make way for her successor, Ratliff is already making plans for her next opportunity to volunteer.

“One of my sons had asked me earlier, ‘Mom, is this bothering you, you know, now that you’re really going?’,” Ratliff said. “And I said, ‘No, I’m excited to find out what’s going to happen next. I’m excited because i can’t wait to see what God’s got in store for me.'”

Each year the Volunteer Center places more than 12,000 volunteers at 3,500 Kern County nonprofits, about 10 percent in association with court-assigned community service, but the vast majority are just regular members of the community looking for ways to contribute. 

Whether it’s delivering meals, coaching sports, or transporting cancer patients to appointments — from the Bakersfield Homeless Center to Habitat for Humanity, from the SPCA to the Golden Empire Gleaners, the need is great — and the response is great, thanks to Ratliff and her volunteers.

Jason Terronez is the warehouse manager at Golden Empire Gleaners, which — staffed largely with referrals from the Volunteer Center — feeds hundreds of families a week. He’s never met Ratliff in person, but he grasps the essential nature of her work.

“They’re very helpful to us here with the Gleaners,” he said. “Every time I need a position to be filled, I give her a call and she sends us a volunteer to help us out and keep us going.”

Now the job passes to Lori Honea, who came to the Volunteer Center as a volunteer herself a year and a half ago.

Ratliff “has put blood, sweat and tears into this place,” Honea said. “I would like to carry the torch and go further with the Volunteer Center but also take what she has done and just build upon it.”

Ratliff says the organization will be on solid footing going forward.

“Whew, OK,” she said. “I’m good. I can go. You know, I feel like i can walk away with as much assuredness as possible knowing that it’s in good hands.”

Just one of the people that make this place where we live a special place: Brenda Ratliff, retiring after 30 years.

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