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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