In the Heart of Communities: Florida’s Volunteer Generation Fund Grants Tackle Workforce Development, Disaster Response, and the Opioid Crisis with Skill-Based Volunteers

This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month and Week (April 15-21, 2018), we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are harnessing the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through the federal Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program. Learn more at statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

Today’s spotlight is on Volunteer Florida, the Florida state service commission.

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Good morning from sunny Florida! I’m Audrey Kidwell, the Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) Program Manager at Volunteer Florida. We have focused specifically on increasing skills based volunteers for the past 7 years! We are proud to support 22 organizations each year throughout the state of Florida. Our VGF program uses evidence-based principles of service and the concept of volunteering as a pathway to work.

Skills-based volunteering builds capacity for nonprofits and service organizations by leveraging the experience, talents and education of volunteers such as accountants, attorneys, and IT professionals and matches them with the needs of nonprofits. These funds helps organizations to more effectively recruit, manage, and retain skills-based volunteers to serve in high value volunteer assignments.

Our 22 sub-grantees receive comprehensive training on volunteer management, program and financial requirements, funding for program enhancements, ongoing technical assistance, and coaching to establish or strengthen their skills-based volunteer program.

In 2017, Volunteer Florida invested $286,000 in grants for 22 Florida nonprofits. These 22 Volunteer Generation Fund sub-grantees recruited 15,470 skills based volunteers who served 196,438 hours – a value of over $4.7 million.

Volunteer Florida is especially proud that to support organizations that opt into our priority areas of Disaster Services and Opioid Crisis.

Disaster Services organization utilize skills-based volunteers to improve community resiliency through disaster preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation. Those organizations include Feeding America Tampa Bay and the Monticello Opera House Inc.

Opioid Crisis organizations utilize skills-based volunteers in reducing and/or preventing prescription drug and opioid abuse. Those organizations are Caridad Center Inc., Gulf Coast Jewish Family And Community Services Inc., Parker Street Ministries, and Speak Up For Kids of Palm Beach County Inc.

Our VGF grantees are in the heart of communities across the state, putting volunteers to work to provide STEM education opportunities, help job-seekers find employment, and teach financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship skills to Floridians.
Learning for Success, Inc. manages the KAPOW program throughout South Florida. KAPOW is a national network of business and elementary school partnerships which introduces students to career awareness through professionally designed lessons taught by business volunteers in the classroom and visits to work sites.

KAPOW volunteers served 5,924 students in 71 schools throughout Miami-Dade and Broward County. Volunteers are professionals from the local community, assigned to a school to teach a series of 7 one hour lessons, based on career awareness and work place skills. Volunteers empower students, expose them to various career options, and help to motivate students who are lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem.

United Way of the Florida Keys leads a community-wide partnership with a diverse set of established volunteer-selected nonprofit agencies in Monroe County, Florida.

United Way of the Florida Keys completed 100 tax returns in the community, obtaining low-income clients over $40,000 in returns. Over 115 skills based volunteers were engaged in Hurricane Irma response. Volunteers provided referrals, assistance with debris clean up, and food distribution at different locations throughout the Keys, but primarily in Big Pine Key where residents were hardest hit.

This group of diverse nonprofits, organizations, and of course skill-based volunteers are helping to make Florida a safer, stronger community for all!

Audrey Kidwell is the Volunteer Generation Fund Program Manager at Volunteer Florida. She is a Hoosier turned Floridian, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, an AmeriCorps Alum, and a lover of volunteerism and all things good.

Learn more about Florida’s VGF intiative and its VGF subgrantees.

 

 

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Volunteer Generation Fund makes skill-based volunteering a pathway to employment for Floridians

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This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month, we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are leveraging the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through their Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) activities. Learn more at statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

FLORIDA. The mission of Volunteer Florida, the state service commission in the Sunshine State, is to strengthen communities through national service, fostering volunteerism, and leveraging resources. Volunteer Florida also administers the state’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program, providing subgrants to organizations that mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

Volunteer Florida’s Volunteer Generation Fund is a unique skills-based volunteer program that builds capacity for nonprofits and service organizations and uses volunteerism as a pathway to work. VGF funding helps organizations to more effectively recruit, manage, and retain skills-based volunteers to serve in high value volunteer assignments. Skills-based volunteering leverages the experience, talents and education of volunteers such as accountants, attorneys, and IT professionals and matches them with the needs of nonprofits. Sub-grantees also receive comprehensive training, funding for program enhancements and ongoing technical assistance, and coaching to establish or strengthen their skills-based volunteer program.

In 2016, Volunteer Florida invested $212,500 in grants for 20 Florida nonprofits. These 20 Volunteer Generation Fund sub-grantees recruited 13,507 skills based volunteers who served 166,080 hours – a value of over $3.6 million.

VF is especially proud that nine of the 20 grantees opted into the Volunteer Florida RFP priority area of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) programs and the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Six STEM based grantees recruit volunteers to promote and engage students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers and engage STEM professionals as volunteers. Those organizations include Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County, BRACE, Growing Hope Foundation, Junior Achievement of North Florida, Parker Street Ministries, and the Tallahassee Museum.

My Brother’s Keeper initiative was launched to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. Through this initiative, local governments, business communities, and foundations aim to connect young people to mentoring, support networks, and the skills they need to secure employment and post-secondary education. The Volunteer Florida VGF sub-grantees supporting the My Brother’s Keeper initiative include Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County, Catholic Volunteers in Florida, Chapman Partnership, Family Support Services of North Florida, and Parker Street Ministries.

Impact Stories:

Catholic Volunteers in Florida Incorporated

Catholic Volunteers in Florida Inc. provides support to the St. Vincent de Paul Re-Entry Project, which improve job access and economic opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals across the state of Florida. The Vincentian Re-Entry Project connects people across differences in race, income, age, and life experience to make a positive difference in addressing public policy and structural change that allows greater opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals. All volunteer activities associated with the St. Vincent de Paul ReEntry Project relate to the My Brothers Keeper Initiative with the focus on increasing job opportunities for young men of color to enter the workforce, specifically men of color who are formerly incarcerated and face enormous barriers to securing a job because of their conviction. Catholic Volunteers in Florida Inc. engaged 237 skills based volunteers contributing 2,336 hours of service in 2016.

The Lightner Museum of Hobbies

The Lightner Museum is a nonprofit museum in the historic downtown district of St. Augustine. Skills-based volunteers will create public learning experiences in each of the Museum’s gallery spaces and support education initiatives. Volunteers are trained and provide visitors with history and information on our collections. They also lead school tours and adult tours. Volunteers contribute to our online blog, social media and write a quarterly newsletter. Through the Volunteer Generation Fund, The Lightner Museum has worked on modernizing their volunteer program. They’ve expanded volunteer descriptions and the application process, along with updating their volunteer policies and procedures. Many of these activities were also facilitated through the skills based volunteers who work in the office. The Lightner Museum of Hobbies engaged 154 skills based volunteers contributing 4,182 hours of service.

To learn more about Volunteer Florida’s VGF program and subgrantees, visit volunteerflorida.org/grants/#vgf.

Meet ASC Board Member: Chester Spellman

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Chester Spellman was appointed chief executive officer of the Governor’s Commission on Community Service, Volunteer Florida, on April 27, 2012 by Governor Rick Scott. At Volunteer Florida, Spellman oversees $23 million in federal, state and local funds supporting AmeriCorps and volunteer programs to meet critical needs in Florida’s communities, and also leads the statewide coordination for volunteers and donations in a disaster for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Chester serves on the ASC Board of Directors and recently joined the Executive Committee as 2nd Vice Chair leading Resource Development.
1) How did you get to where you are today? I got to where I am today through a combination of hard work and good fortune.
2) What has been your best moment so far serving with your state commission? I have served as Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Florida for a little over a year now. The best part of my tenure at Volunteer Florida has been visiting sites where AmeriCorps members are serving and seeing the lives that have been changed through their hard work and dedication.
3) What advice do you have for others at commissions? Or what is the best advice you’ve received? I think the most important thing that we can do in the national service sector is to always place the mission first. We are working in a sector where we have the privilege of making a difference in our communities each and every day. We should never forget why we are here and why we do what we do.
4) What keeps you motivated? I remain motivated by thinking of the programs throughout Florida that we are supporting and the lives that are being directly impacted through the AmeriCorps members that are serving.
5) In one word what would you describe as your greatest strength? Ambition
6) How do you prepare yourself when you know something is going to be controversial or challenging? I take a deep breath, envision the desired outcome and enter the situation with confidence.