Volunteer Generation Fund Makes an Impact on Mentoring, Youth in Tennessee

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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.

TENNESSEE. The mission of Volunteer Tennessee, the state service commission in the Volunteer state, is to encourage volunteerism and community service. Volunteer Tennessee administers the state’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program, providing subgrants to different community organizations throughout the state who mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

Since 2014, Volunteer Tennessee has led the Tennessee Volunteer Generation Fund Coalition in an effort to increase volunteer recruitment and expand the use of volunteers to address education challenges in Tennessee.  In 2017, Coalition members Hands On Nashville, the Tennessee Board of Regents, the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, the United Way of Greater Knoxville, United Way of Williamson County, and Volunteer Memphis will recruit 8,000 volunteers and assist 40 organizations in implementing effective practices to build capacity in the areas of volunteer recruitment and volunteer management.

Hands On Nashville (HON): Through youth programming, HON will provide 6,500 opportunities to engage youth, the majority of whom are economically disadvantaged, in 15,000 hours of education/civic action during out-of-school time.

Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR): The Tennessee Board of Regents will advance the goals of Tennessee’s Promise, a program that allows high school graduates to attend TN community colleges for free in exchange for 8 hours of community service before college and 8 hours each semester of enrollment. TBR will work with member institutions to develop a central service data warehouse. TBR will mobilize 40 Tennessee Promise scholars to address education challenges and assist 19 partner institutions with the implementation of volunteer management best practices.

United Way of Greater Chattanooga (UWGC): The UWGC’s Chattanooga Literacy Initiative Mentor Volunteer Program (MVP) gives students across Hamilton County access to free reading and mentoring services at locations in neighborhoods with the greatest need for additional educational services.

United Way of Greater Knoxville (UWGK): UWGK will increase volunteer engagement in Community Schools in Knox County. The percentage of 3rd, 5th and 8th graders proficient or advanced in reading/language arts will increase by 5% annually.

United Way of Williamson County (UWWC): UWWC works with volunteers through their Raise Your Hand program to tutor 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade children in reading and math skills in Williamson County.  100% of the students in the program are expected to increase their Standardized Testing and Reporting Scores after one year, and 77% will read at grade level by the time they have completed one year in the program.

Volunteer Memphis: Volunteer Memphis will enlist 300 new volunteers who will perform 4,500 hours of service; engage parents, community and faith leaders as volunteers in urban schools and neighborhood centers; and promote the FAFSA Prep Project to improve post-secondary enrollment rates in Memphis and Shelby County.

The success of United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s (UWGC) mentoring program is but one example of the significant impact of VGF funds. The VGF grant is helping UWGC to succeed in its role as the city’s convener around the mentoring initiative. Community collaboration adds value by providing advocacy through a strong “common voice” and raising public awareness of the need for mentoring. Mentoring is too big, risky and complex for one organization alone. Shared learning and best practices can more easily transfer across partnering organizations in a way that avoids past pitfalls and accelerates effectiveness. Creating a network of effective support for those committed to providing sustained mentoring opportunities for Chattanooga youth will increase endurance. Strategic coordination and planning opportunities assists in filling gaps, avoiding duplication, and addressing and avoiding potential conflict between those involved in mentoring initiatives. UWGC is currently working with many collaborative partners to develop a strategic plan for the mentoring initiative. Partners include local schools (both private and public); local foundations; youth nonprofits and organizations; the City of Chattanooga; local businesses; and faith organizations. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that every child in Hamilton County who needs a mentor is connected to a mentor and Chattanooga is established as a national “benchmark” city for effectively mentoring its children and youth, which supports the Chattanooga 2.0 goals. Through these partnerships, more than 700 mentor volunteers stand ready to be trained and connect to youth in the city.

As we prepare to wrap up the current three year grant cycle, Volunteer Tennessee is excited to see how the Coalition continues to increase the number of volunteers in the field of education, advancing our mission of encouraging volunteerism and community service across Tennessee.

To learn more about Volunteer Tennessee and its programs, visit volunteertennessee.net.

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April is National Volunteer Month | Volunteer Generation Fund Makes an Impact on Hunger, Health in Iowa

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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.

IOWA. The mission of Volunteer Iowa, the state service commission in the Hawkeye state, is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. Volunteer Iowa administers the state’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program, providing subgrants to 5 different community organizations throughout the state who mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

One such VGF subgrantee, the United Way of Wapello County Volunteer Center in Ottumwa, has mobilized more than 100 unique volunteers in 600 hours of service to address the issues of hunger and access to healthy food in their community. The organization hosts a food pantry garden sponsored by corporations and community groups. The garden is also supported with skill-based volunteer positions including Spanish language interpreters, Master Gardeners, local engineers, and soil quality experts.

Volunteers help build and repair raised beds, till the soil, plant the produce, regularly mow, weed, pick produce, and tend bee hives. Volunteers also constructed an arbor and bench for visitors to the garden. The over 4,000 pounds of produce grown during this year, and was donated to the local food bank and meal sites. Several neighborhood-based community gardens were organized, where local residents raised their own garden produce.  Volunteers express satisfaction in getting outside and giving back, and community members benefit from healthy fresh produce.

During this time period they also hosted four gardening classes led by skill-based volunteers covering the subjects of beekeeping, starting seeds, fertilizing, and making pollinator seed bombs. The classes were free of charge and open to the public.

To learn more about Volunteer Iowa and its programs, visit volunteeriowa.org/icvs-programs.