A service project organized by her Unitarian church for Volunteers of America, Utah introduced business owner Peggy Montrone to the nonprofit and its Youth Resource Center.

Erma Decaria, a registered nurse, always enjoyed service work.

Kathy Wagner, a secretary at Granite School District, liked helping with VOA’s Fill the Pack, a holiday project to load up backpacks with items needed by homeless youths.

And De Buchanan , who used to work for a steel company, was frustrated with the current political climate and felt the need to do something positive.

So the women, all now retired, became volunteers at the VOA Youth Resource Center. The center, at 888 S. 400 West in Salt Lake City, offers emergency overnight shelter and other services to homeless teens and young people.

“It was always in my mind that when I retired, I wanted to work with homeless youth,” said Wagner, who devotes anywhere from 18 to 40 hours a week volunteering at the center.

Volunteers sort donations, pick up donated food, keep the center’s pantry organized, cook meals, do laundry, answer phones, assist with administrative work, and pitch in with whatever task needs to be done.

Decaria, who is retired from the University of Utah Hospital, usually sorts donations but also occasionally cooks, a task she likes the best.

Montrone, who has been volunteering at the center for almost six years, mostly works in the food pantry. She has a grandson who lived on the streets for a few years and said that “your heartstrings get pulled” by the work.

Not all of the volunteers are retired. Natalie Bagnell, who works part time at a salon, began volunteering at VOA three months ago.

“I decided I needed to do something more for the community,” she said.

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers Peggy Montrone, Kathy Wagner, De Buchanan, Erma Decaria and Natalie Bagnell in the donation room at Volunteers of America, in Salt Lake in Salt Lake City Monday December 11, 2017. The group volunteers their time to organize donated items intended for homeless young people.

Bagnell said she wanted to work with youths because they need people who care about then.

She is stationed at the center’s front desk, where she answers calls and assists the teens with getting clothes and anything else they need.

She enjoys the interactions with the youths and, in reference to her brightly dyed hair, added, “When you have blue hair, they relate to you.”

The volunteers said they feel fulfilled by their work.

“It’s made me feel productive,” Buchanan said. “It’s extremely gratifying.”

In addition to the direct services the volunteers provide, their work also frees up staff members to spend more one-on-one time with clients, according to Jayme Anderson, director of volunteer services.

She said 3,248 volunteers did 19,312 hours of work last year for VOA, with about 95 percent of the time provided at the Youth Resource Center and the rest through other programs offered by the organization.

If you're interested in volunteering, visit https://www.voaut.org/volunteer.

Volunteers of America, Utah is collecting items for homeless teens and young people with the help of The Salt Lake Tribune and Mark Miller Subaru.

Donations are being accepted Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the nonprofit VOA Youth Resource Center, 888 S. 400 West, in Salt Lake City. The drop-off location is on the north side of 900 South.

The center — which serves youths ages 15 to 22 — needs cash, warm clothing and blankets. The donations are tax deductible.

Other needed items include gift cards for fast food restaurants and grocery stores; bus tokens; new winter boots and new underwear for men and women; new socks, various sizes; sleeping bags; travel size toiletries; laundry pods; earbuds; and baby wipes and diapers, size 5 and 6.

VOA also has set up an Amazon Holiday Wish List Registry at https://www.voaut.org/holidaydonations.

You can enter a drawing for prizes provided by The Tribune and Mark Miller Subaru. Although a donation is not required, it’s greatly appreciated. Those prizes include Row 1 Jazz tickets; a ski package; movie tickets; lunch with Tribune humor columnist Robert Kirby; and a print from Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley.

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers at Volunteers of America sort clothing that has been donated to help homeless young people in Salt Lake City Monday December 11, 2017.