Archive for August, 2012

Welcome to HandsOn Willamette!

Posted on August 26, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

After careful consideration, HandsOn Linn Benton and our counterpart to the north, HandsOn Mid-Willamette Valley, have made the decision to join forces and become HandsOn Willamette.  Similar missions and a united goal to help volunteers flex their amazing muscles throughout the community made this a very easy decision for all involved.

So what does this mean for you?  Well not very much will change.  You will still have access to the wide variety of service opportunities on the HandsOn website.  You will still be able to track your volunteer hours in your HandsOn account.  However, you will need to update your bookmarks!  HandsOn’s web address has changed to www.HandsOnW.org.  You now will also see opportunities across Linn, Benton, Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties.  All of your volunteer opportunities, connections and service records are saved there.  You just need to reset your password to access your volunteer account.  Enter your username in the Login box in the top right corner and click “Forgot Password.”  A temporary password will be emailed to you.  If you happen to have a HandsOn account with HandsOn Linn Benton and HandsOn Mid-Willamette Valley, let us know!  We can merge the two together to make it easier for you to be a volunteer superhero spanning the valley.

Thank you for your support of HandsOn Linn Benton over the years.  We are so excited to see what the coming years will bring as HandsOn Willamette. If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to drop us a line.  We are here for YOU, the volunteer!

Want to know more?  Check out this article in the Statesman Journal.

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HandsOn to Expand its Reach in State

Posted on August 26, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

written by Saerom Yoo with the Statesman Journal
A Salem-based volunteer action center is serving two additional counties — expanding its reach to Linn and Benton counties.

HandsOn Mid-Willamette Valley, which launched in 2007 as a United Way initiative, originally served Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties. It is staffed by three full-time employees and volunteers. Starting Sept. 1, the nonprofit will be named HandsOn Willamette.

In February, the Salem affiliate became a program of Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency.

HandsOn is part of a national network that connects volunteers to service opportunities. It has a web database of volunteer opportunities. It also provides training in volunteer management to help nonprofits establish best practices.

Linn and Benton counties have a HandsOn affiliate — HandsOn Linn-Benton, which is under the umbrella organization Community Services Consortium in Albany. However, there wasn’t enough funding to deliver meaningful services, CSC executive director Martha Lyon said.

“We needed to find either funding or someone to take it over,” Lyon said.

Meanwhile, in Salem, director Khela Singer and her crew were obtaining grants to organize National Days of Service, to partner with schools and colleges, and to provide support to nonprofits.

So the Linn-Benton group approached HandsOn in Salem to provide similar support to the Linn-Benton communities. The part-time staffer who administered HandsOn Linn-Benton was laid off, Lyon said.

“All of us have a duty to try and combine forces where we can,” Lyon said. “This is just an instance where it made less sense to have a standalone database.”

HandsOn affiliates are eligible to apply for funding from the parent organization, Points of Light, but it’s still a competitive process. Not only do affiliates need to prove a successful track record, it’s unlikely to grant funding to more than one organization in one state, Singer said.

The expansion would mean less competition for the funds and that communities in Linn and Benton counties can benefit from the programming the Salem group provides. It also opens up more opportunities for funding from new avenues.

In the meantime, though, Singer will be strategic about providing services to two additional counties with the same amount of resources.

“Right now, we can already give more technical support and training to nonprofits,” she said, without adding costs. The Salem group has already begun managing the HandsOn Linn-Benton website.

Larger services, such as National Days of Service and service-learning programs, will be rolled out slowly.

The long-term goal is to raise enough money to fund more staff positions, Singer said.

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When Disaster Strikes, How Will You Help?

Posted on August 21, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

Over the last few years, it seems like we can’t go more than a few months without hearing about an emergency or disaster in one corner of the world.  Whether it is a natural or manmade disaster, there never is a shortage of opportunities for communities to come together to help each other through hard times.  By now we would hope that most people know that it is never a good idea to self-deploy to assist relief workers during a disaster.  However, it is completely understandable that you can’t just stand by while there are neighbors out there that need help!  (more…)

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Part 9 of Michelle Nunn’s Cross Country Exploration of Volunteerism

Posted on August 15, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

Imagine that you are driving down the road with your dog in the back, minding your own business when you find yourself being followed by a woman who parks when you park, then jumps out of her car, races to your side and starts talking about the difference you can make by contributing to the local animal shelter.

Margie Taylor, chair of the Sheridan, Wyoming Land Trust, told me all about this stalker-cum-volunteer enthusiast, describing her as positively undaunted in her pursuit of resources for the local animal shelter. She believed that everyone who had a pet, was a natural contributor to the shelter and she had the boldness to make the ask. I discovered in Sheridan, an impressive group of citizen leaders who had learned to ask their fellow citizens to contribute, to participate, and to help in a great variety of ways.

Sheridan is a town of 18,000 citizens in Northern Wyoming at the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. I visited my friends Michelle Sullivan and Brian Kuhl, who, along with other residents, have made a thoughtful choice to plant roots in Sheridan and raise their families. I guess you don’t end up here by accident.

As I sat around the table with leaders of the Sheridan Community – representing Habitat for Humanity, The Land Trust, the Scott Foundation, The Center for Community Creation – I asked them what makes a city like Sheridan thrive, retain and attract new generations of leaders, and maintain its civic dynamism.

One person mentioned a sense of accountability to one another: “When you live in a small community, you know that if you don’t do it, nobody  else will either.” Another said that folks tended to gather at the local YMCA, which then became a place to get things organized. Several people mentioned either approaching others or being approached themselves while wrapped in towels after a workout – evidently a good time to make the ask!

I was fully attired on a recent Saturday morning, when I joined 150 volunteers in my first-ever Human Cattle Drive (alternatively called the Trail Trudge, Tromp or Trollop) to help break in a gorgeous new 12-mile trail created by the Sheridan Land Trust with help from cooperative private land owners. Families and neighbors alternatively tromped and visited with friends as they tamped down the path that the community will enjoy for decades to come.

A Serve Wyoming VISTA leader, Jamie Ostermyer, helped organize the Tromp recruiting dozens of volunteers. Everywhere I have visited, there are AmeriCorps members working with energy and enthusiasm to make things happen.  Amy Strauss and Alex Selig, AmeriCorps volunteers were making magic at the YMCA creating tutoring and enrichment programs.

My next stop was quite a change of pace. I visited the Green House – a new long-term care facility for elders that’s breaking the mold. The Green House Living movement, a care model for elders that throws out much of the institutional culture of nursing homes and embraces a home-like environment, inspired two local volunteers to get moving.

Carman Rideout, Executive Director of the Senior Center, and one of the volunteer founders of the Green House told me about the moment when the idea of a new kind of care was introduced. A handful of fellow volunteers literally jumped up and down, declaring, “We can do this!” They needed every bit of that enthusiasm as they worked for six years to raise over $3 million, battle skepticism and bureaucracy, and hold onto the vision of what was possible.

I saw a small collection of homes, each with 12 residents, and felt a real spirit of compassionate care along with the encouragement to live full lives. The Green House model is spreading around the country, but Sheridan’s is the only independent, volunteer-driven center. I expect it to influence the principles and expectations of care throughout Wyoming.

At my last stop in Sheridan, I met a group of leaders that included Arin Waddell. Arin was moved by a story and the passion of a friend who wanted to help kids fight hunger after she discovered her daughter filling her pockets with food every morning to share on the bus to school. Arin and her friends came up with a plan to make sure children weren’t going hungry over the weekends. Today children in need can pick up one of The Food Group’s backpacks, full of nourishing food, at school, no forms or names needed.

But it wasn’t always easy. As the program grew, the group was approached about the need to feed 48 more children. They didn’t know how to say no, but they had no way of saying yes – they had no additional capacity. And then a local plumber, who had seen a flier about the program (posted by Arin’s hairdresser), stepped forward. He organized a group of plumbers, welders and workmen, who took care of the entire cost. Within a year, The Food Group was sending nourishing meals home with 248 children each week.

Arin described building up her courage to ask people to help – to ask restaurants to donate food, a local band to donate its talents, and volunteers to hold a fundraiser (they raised $18,000 right out of the gate). She discovered that in asking, she issued an invitation for participation and inclusion that people were happy to accept.

As I discovered anew in Sheridan, a growing circle of asking and responding is an essential part of building a vibrant community. In this vital exchange, we nourish one another in ways both physical and spiritual. One key question for all of us is, how do we broaden the circle of civic leaders- those who lead and ask others to serve?

The real secret behind strong civic leadership? Quite simply, the power and courage to ask.

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Youth Change Makers transform Their Communities Trough Service

Posted on August 14, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

NEW YORK (Aug. 7, 2012) – After a nationwide search, generationOn, the youth enterprise of Points of Light, brought together 14 young people from across the nation who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their commitment to philanthropy to form the 2012-2014 generationOn Youth Advisory Council, the second Council to serve since generationOn launched in October 2010. These young leaders embody generationOn’s vision of developing young people into creative problem-solvers, allowing them to experience their power and potential to become global leaders through service in their communities. (more…)

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Part 8 of Michelle Nunn’s Cross Country Exploration of Volunteerism

Posted on August 8, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

Today’s post originally appeared on the Points of Light blog on August 6, 2012.

Minneapolis has long been considered a bastion of civic virtue, and for good reason. With the highest volunteer rate among large cities, the city understands the impact of giving back.

HandsOn Twin Cities – the longest operating volunteer center in the country – continues to find new ways to create change. I had the chance to meet with its board members and staff, led by Executive Director Kristin Schurrer, to learn more about their evolving work.

For those looking for innovative ideas, here are two: HandsOn Twin Cities will sponsor a speed-volunteering experience (think speed dating and you’ll understand the matching that goes on!) for 10,000 people at an event at the Mall of America. And the group will also launch a skills-based, done-in-a-day volunteer expo in the fall. (more…)

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Part 7 of Michelle Nunn’s Cross Country Trip through Volunteerism

Posted on August 8, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

Today’s post originally appeared on the Points of Light blog site on August 3, 2012.

Michelle Nunn continues her service tour with a stop in Milwaukee.

I must confess that my concept of Milwaukee was a bit trapped in old stereotypes. I was expecting a cold Midwestern city with musty factories and dusty breweries. That’s not what I got.

As we pulled in for a short visit, I was taken in by the fabulous lakefront parks, spectacular new Santiago Calatrava-designed Museum of Art, and the rivers winding through the cities with kayakers and scullers pulling into shore-side cafes and pubs. We discovered a Safe House spy restaurant with trapdoors and a password-only entry point that was great fun for kids and adults alike. It is a city of secreted charms. (more…)

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Part 6 of Michelle Nunn’s Cross Country Trip through Volunteerism

Posted on August 8, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

Today’s post originally appeared on the Points of Light blog site on August 2, 2012.

Michelle Nunn shares her experiences in Chicago on her Service Tour across country.

You can’t help but marvel at Chicago in the summertime. On an evening stroll from the Museum Campus down the lakefront and up through Grant Park to the new Millennium Park, you see extraordinary cultural institutions, beautiful parks, a lively street life and wonderful restaurants. (more…)

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Part 5 of Michelle Nunn’s Cross Country Trip through Volunteerism

Posted on August 8, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today’s post originally appeared on the Points of Light daily blog site on August 1, 2012.
Michelle Nunn makes a stop on her service tour at HandsOn Battle Creek.

When William Keith Kellogg established his foundation in 1930, he provided simple instructions: “Use the money as you please so long as it promotes the health, happiness and well-being of children.”

From the foundation’s inception, Battle Creek – founding home of the Kellogg Company and current home of the foundation – has enjoyed the bounty of W.K. Kellogg’s rich philanthropic tradition.

Here’s what impressed me most during my visit with Jim Pearl and his team at HandsOn Battle Creek.

A dental program with a twist: HandsOn Battle Creek runs a dental program for people who can’t afford dental care. But instead of the usual charitable care model where the “haves” simply give away free services to the “have-nots,” they require all players to contribute something. Dentists provide free dental services to patients who need them and, in return, the patients volunteer in the community. The program has reduced emergency room visits for dental pain by a stunning 80 percent.

A 2-1-1 call center: HandsOn Battle Creek runs a 2-1-1 call center, a terrific asset that allows people to call to give or get help. Last year, the center got 38,400 calls, an astounding number given the town’s population of just 55,000 residents.

School-based service-learning: Jim and his team are helping teachers build service-learning into the curriculum, making the school experience relevant and cultivating a new generation of citizen leaders. While I was visiting, HandsOn Battle Creek hosted nearly 30 teachers in a three-and-a-half day workshop organized with help from Kellogg Community College, the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s LEAGUE program and the Fisher Foundation, plus the hard work of two AmeriCorps VISTA members.

When I walked into the classroom where they were working, the teachers were buzzing with energy. They had just been to a local soup kitchen where they prepared a meal. And they were busy using generationOn‘s Learning to Give website to prepare a whole semester’s worth of curriculum and class materials. (Learning to Give offers more than 1,600 lesson plans that are aligned with Michigan’s state standards and the Common Core.)

Teachers I spoke with were enormously enthusiastic about the training, resources and tools they were finding to bring back to their classrooms. Kathy Roberts told me that the program had totally transformed her work as a teacher. She determined never again to teach her students “anything that is not directly and clearly relevant to the real world.” To her, service-learning isn’t an add-on, it’s a “bridge” to enliven and bring meaning to academic work.

This is exactly the kind of program that would be great to bring to scale. Imagine communities across the nation engaging teachers in lessons that bring philanthropy and service to life in practical ways and make academic work meaningful. For more, visit The LEAGUE Michigan’s website, http://www.mnaonline.org/league.aspx.

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Part 4 of Michelle Nunn’s Cross Country Exploration of Volunteerism

Posted on August 1, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today’s post originally appeared on the Points of Light blog site on July 31, 2012.

Michelle Nunn continues her cross-country trip and writes about her time spent in Detroit, Michigan.

The Lafayette Coney Island Hot Dog Stand in downtown Detroit hasn’t changed much since it was founded in 1929. Menus aren’t really necessary – you can get hot dogs, chili, “loose” hamburgers and pie, and the servers take your order and yell to the kitchen how many “coneys” have been ordered.

When I was eating lunch there on my visit to Detroit, Asia, an enthusiastic 9-year-old girl, came to my table and explained that she was selling candles for $5 each. I asked her how many candles she could sell in a day and she replied, “If I talk to 100 people, I can sell 35, but if I am in the zone, I can sell 60.”

Asia became the face of Detroit’s future for me. The city is resilient, undaunted and optimistic, leaning into its entrepreneurial spirit and ready to take on a challenge.

With a 19 percent office vacancy rate and a city population that has shrunk from several million to less than 700,000, Detroit is a city that has to reimagine itself. New alliances are needed, along with new energy and a new form of civic renewal.

I was struck by both the enormity of the challenges that Detroit faces and the reservoir of optimism and determination of its citizen leaders. When I asked a group of leaders, who have come together in a collaboration called Serve the D, to rate on a scale of one to 10 their level of optimism about their ability to tackle the tough problems of the city, they all enthusiastically said 10 or even 11.

The group includes the city’s chief service officer, the Michigan Nonprofit Association led by my hosts Kyle Caldwell and Donna Murray-Brown, neighborhood and faith-based groups, and new generation approaches like Summer in the City. This diverse group of service leaders talked about the economic and racial rifts in the city and how central volunteer and civic engagement is in bridging differences and bringing the city together. Service, they said, is the essential ingredient for making tough decisions and finding the pathway forward.

Throughout my visit to Michigan, I was impressed by the rich civic infrastructure that undergirds its service work. Volunteer Centers of Michigan, the statewide volunteer association and network led by Diana Algra, supports and coordinates with 30 Michigan volunteer centers to embrace best practices and peer learning. In partnership with the Michigan Community Service Commission, led by Paula Kaiser VanDam, they have created a real model for collaboration at a statewide level, adopting HandsOn Connect as a unified technology platform, embracing the Reimagining Service Service Enterprise Model and focusing concerted energy in cities like Detroit. (Throughout the country, I have seen how a really small allocation of dollars from the Service Generation Fund is rippling out in creative investments and solutions.)

I walked into the D:hive in downtown Detroit, an initiative funded by the Hudson-Webber Foundation to accelerate the renaissance of this city. The D:hive is literally buzzing with activity – they give newcomers tours of the city to attract urban pioneers and run eight-week courses for entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses and civic ventures. Detroit has so much to offer, and D:hive helps newcomers find things in the city, from great jobs to community organizations.

I also saw how tough challenges can generate creative solutions. I met with my friend David Fike, who is the president of Marygrove, a small college serving largely first-generation college students. He and the leadership of this formerly women’s Catholic college have carried the institution into a new generation of growth and vitality by focusing on creating urban leaders. With a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, the college is revising its entire curriculum to develop leadership skills in each of its students and make Marygrove a significant leader in the drive to rebuild Detroit.

Back at the Lafayette Coney Island Hot Dog Stand, I asked Asia about school. “I love school, I love learning, and if I do well, I can help people,” she said. Given all the great leaders I met who are helping others in an effort to help Detroit, Asia will have a lot of company and, I hope, a lot of success.

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