Volunteers will play a critical role in Ballarat's COVID-19 recovery, but re-engaging those who have had months away from volunteering could prove a challenge.
The Ballarat Foundation revealed plans to create a hub for volunteering and charity at Lydiard Street building Chatham House on Friday.
Volunteering Ballarat coordinator Jess Frost-Camilleri said the centre would play a key role in helping organisations strengthen their programs and boost volunteer numbers during recovery from COVID-19.
"A lot of community programs are based on volunteers," she said.
"Many of those programs have been shut down at the moment or are significantly reduced.
"The risk of not having volunteers is that they don't start up again."
Ms Frost-Camilleri said there had been an increase in informal volunteering and recovery volunteering throughout the pandemic in areas like food relief, homelessness support and Lifeline.
However a significant number of volunteer programs have been suspended due to COVID-19, meaning hundreds of volunteers had been disengaged for long periods of time.
"Our biggest issue is going to be re-engaging volunteers who have had significant periods away from volunteering but also feel there may be some risks in volunteering," Ms Frost-Camilleri said.
"We want to be able to alleviate some of those fears, make sure organisations are COVID safe, volunteers feel comfortable, have appropriate PPE and know how to use it."
Ballarat Foundation plans for the Ballarat Centre for Volunteering and Charity involve redeveloping Chatham House to provide meeting rooms, training and office space and a 'one-stop-shop' for volunteering.
A study by consultants Deloitte found a five per cent increase in volunteer activity in the Ballarat region would create more than $8.6 million in benefits to the community.
Ballarat Foundation chair Wayne Weaire said the centre would be central to a community-led response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"The Ballarat Foundation's vision for this centre is to support and grow our community through collaboration with volunteers, not-for-profit and community organisations in a modern, central facility which will be accessible and active," he said.
"We are lucky enough to be positioned here in Lydiard Street which puts us in the middle of so much that happens in our community, but also because this street is so famous it is also puts volunteering right in the middle of all that happens in Ballarat."
The Ballarat Foundation purchased Chatham House in 2018 and is seeking $1.74 million to complete the redevelopment.
Ballarat Foundation chief executive said if the required funding was secured, construction work could begin next year.
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