It Takes A Village: Iowa Pilots New Volunteer Center Model in Marion County to Take On Public Health

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 Iowa, the Iowa commission on service and volunteerism.

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In Iowa, the Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program is leveraged by Volunteer Iowa as the state service commission to help develop and enhance the state’s volunteer infrastructure through in-depth volunteer management training and consulting with the Service Enterprise Initiative as well as providing sub-grants to local Volunteer Centers. In 2018, Volunteer Iowa awarded $107,000 in federal VGF grant funds from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to local organizations selected through a statewide competitive process, which is matched by $172,899 in non-federal dollars.

If you aren’t already familiar, Volunteer Centers provide critical services to their communities, including connecting people with opportunities to volunteer and serve, increasing capacity for organizations to engage volunteers in meaningful service, promoting volunteering in the community, and being the voice to suggest volunteerism as a solution to community problems and helping to develop such programs. Volunteer Centers are commonly their own nonprofit organizations, and are sometimes housed within a local United Way or city government.

This year, with Volunteer Generation Fund grant support, Volunteer Iowa is investing in a new Volunteer Center approach being piloted in Marion County by VGF sub-grantee, Marion County Public Health (MCPHD), in Knoxville, Iowa.

The core mission of MCPHD is to prevent disease through health promotion and protection using assessment, policy development, and assurance. Establishment of a new volunteer center aligns with the mission of MCPHD in that, in order to achieve the goal of a healthy population and sustain a healthy community, the mantra of “it takes a village” certainly rings true.

Volunteerism is a key component in the development of the fabric of a community and establishing a culture of health. No one entity in a community can provide all services or financially sustain all needs, volunteers are essential human capital to bolster the success of programming, create sustainability and influence health outcomes for the community.

Individuals who volunteer live significantly longer, healthier and better lives, according to a study in 2007 by the Corporation for National and Community Service. State volunteer rates are strongly connected with the physical health of the states’ population. A study of the Americans’ Changing Lives survey found a threshold of volunteering was necessary for health benefits. Those individuals who volunteered at least 40 hours per year, as well as those who volunteered with just one organization, or group, had the lowest risk of mortality (Musick et al., 1999).

It is well known that one’s environment — where they live, work and play — may have a marked impact on the health of an individual, family and community. In recent years it has become incumbent upon local Public Health agencies to reach further beyond direct programming to engage community partners in development of systemic efforts to move forward public health practices. The realm of Public Health has a long and in general unsung history of interventions in our society. Much like the efforts of public health, the hard work, dedication and resulting public good of volunteers often goes overlooked and unnamed. However, the community fabric has the ability to be forever changed by both.

For Public Health, practices and interventions must be championed throughout the community at the personal, family and community level to achieve real, impactful life changes. Community champions must help carry forth the public health message and practices in a manner that can be sustained beyond public health programming — and volunteers are a key component of this equation as they champion the greater good and experience a sense of personal purpose and satisfaction in their own service.

During the first year of this pilot the Volunteer Center is focusing efforts on the county seat of Knoxville, Iowa. Knoxville has an estimated population of 7,244. According to US Census data it is projected that 7.2% of the population in Knoxville is under the age of 5 and 24.7% is under the age of 18. Census data also indicate that 16.9% of the population lives in poverty. A 2015 Kids Count Data report produced by the Child and Family Policy Center reveals that the number of children in Marion County Iowa living in poverty has increased by 27.9% during the timeframe of 2000 to 2015. According to the Iowa Department of Education, the free and reduced lunch rate in the Knoxville Community School district for the 2016-2017 school year was 43.3%. Knoxville could be described as a lower income, working class community.

In recent years, Knoxville has entered into a season of renewal and transformation. Community leaders have identified a solid vision for the future and have developed strategic plans creating a call to action that has reverberated throughout the community. Key stakeholders, employers and the average citizen have become impassioned to see projects through with an end goal of a happy, healthy, safe and thriving community. Residents are developing a service-oriented culture and sense of community that will serve as the underpinnings of sustaining a vibrant and revitalized city. Since receiving a Volunteer Generation Fund subgrant from Volunteer Iowa, the community’s key revitalization projects have gained momentum and volunteers are leading the way. Some of these key projects include a “Spring Into Parks” Volunteer Clean Up Day, the placement of volunteers at local English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to run a daycare center, the development of a suicide prevention coalition, opening a school food bank, and the launch of a new community walkability study. Great things are happening in the community that will not simply be one time volunteer days, but long-reaching public health changes to the community’s population that will enrich its residents’ well-being and fellowship while also establishing a culture of service.

By investing in Volunteer Centers through the Volunteer Generation Fund, Volunteer Iowa is supporting hyper-local, community-driven volunteerism that meets local needs and builds social capital. Through the network of Volunteer Centers, Volunteer Iowa is partnering to provide capacity building services and training to nonprofits and create a culture of service. The VGF grant allows Volunteer Iowa to support innovative approaches, including promoting volunteerism locally as a public health initiative, that will improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement.

Learn more about Iowa’s VGF intiative and subgrantees. Learn more about the Marion County Health Department at www.marionph.org.

Volunteer Iowa (Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service) and its partner agencies work with organizations and individuals on three main fronts. The first is to help agencies develop quality programs that use service as a strategy to fulfill their missions and address Iowa’s greatest areas of need. The second is to help engage Iowans in their communities by promoting service and expanding the volunteer base. Finally, the third area of work is to connect individuals with appropriate service opportunities by building the volunteer infrastructure. More information is available at volunteeriowa.org.

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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.

 

 

The Sun Shines Brightly on Volunteerism in Kentucky

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 the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service.

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Greetings from Kentucky! I’m Melissa Benton, the Volunteer Generation Fund Manager at the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service.

It is a beautiful April morning, the sun is raising and there is a scent of bourbon mash in the air. Walking into work this morning, I think of all the opportunities and possibilities that lay ahead – short and long-term goals, forging and fostering partnerships, civic engagement, promoting volunteerism in both urban and rural communities, building the capacity of organizations, data collection, on and on and on.

There is an excitement in the air, too. The Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service (KCCVS) recently received a Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). VGF provides much needed resources to expand our mission, to promote volunteerism to solve problems and to meet the various needs in our communities. (Yes, it is a long name. We will be announcing an official name change very soon.)

We are collaborating with Points of Light Foundation and working toward our certification as a Service Enterprise Initiative Hub. This collaboration provides additional resources we are able to share with organizations including the Volunteer Management Training Series curriculum. Our VGF goals include networking with community organizations to provide resources to strengthen their capacity with volunteer management and to build a link with agencies who need volunteers with individuals or groups who are looking to volunteer.

We have also collaborated with Kentucky Campus Compact (KCC) to pilot an Alternative Service Breaks program. KCC is engaging Kentucky college students in meaningful community service projects in Kentucky. The projects include activities with community members and intergenerational service projects. Three projects have been completed with more are on the horizon:

Northern Kentucky University, Student Engagement: 30 college students traveled to Auixer, Kentucky (Floyd County) March 4 – March 6, 2018.  They served in partnership with Hand in Hand Ministries  to engage 50 community members in a series of service activities and reflection.  Service projects included home repairs, maintenance, or building ramps for the elderly in Floyd County.  Students conducted service activities for 8 hours each day, and participate in reflection conversations in the evening.  In preparation for the experience, the students participated in six servant leadership presentations.  They are also required to keep a journal throughout the experience. Hand in Hand provides the lodging, and Northern Kentucky University coordinated the travel, supplies, and food expenses.

Kentucky State University & Wesley Foundation: 20 HBCU college students engaged older adult residents in Grayson County, Kentucky in a series of service projects and reflection March 12 – March 16, 2018.  The goal was to facilitate inter-generational, interracial small groups of volunteers to do a variety of community clean up and community repair service activities.

Bellarmine University, Service & Leadership: 8 students traveled to David, KY (Floyd County) and conduct service activities in partnership with The David School.  They engaged community members during the trip.  Participants spent the mornings in the classroom alongside David School students, and afternoons doing repair and clean-up that the small school staff otherwise would not be able to accomplish. Each evening, participants visited with a local nursing home for reflection, visiting, and games.

In recognition and in honor of National Volunteer Week, we want to celebrate the accomplishments of the small rural communities not only in Kentucky but also across our country. Volunteers steeping up, identifying available resources, collaborating with local, state and federal organizations and persevering to meet the needs of their communities – their hometown, the place where they call home and want to live and to raise their families.

One such rural community is Booneville, in Owsley County, Kentucky. Booneville is about a 2-hour drive from Frankfort, our state capital. My favorite part of the ride is getting off I-64 and traveling on the “back roads”. My first trip to Booneville was several years ago to meet with Partnership Housing, a relatively new organization, that had started from the findings of the Owsley County Action Team.

Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in the nation with one of the lowest median household income in the country. The median household income in $23,115. The majority of the housing stock is old and there are still homes that lack plumbing.
My first meeting with Partnership Housing was to discuss with them how to keep the doors open and to develop a plan for their success to meet the housing needs of their community. This meeting was primarily with their volunteer board who knew and understood what was on the line for their community. We discussed strategies, goals, and this proud AmeriCorps Alum, introduced them to AmeriCorps.

Cassie Hudson, executive director of Partnership Housing, stated that for almost seventy years no one was building housing in Owsley County. Under Cassie’s leadership and with Rachel Marshall, an AmeriCorps member, a positive change began to happen in Owsley County. Since 2012, Partnership Housing has built 39 homes, completed both minor and major rehabilitation projects on 200 units, and recently completed 6 rental units.

“National service and AmeriCorps has been crucial to Partnership Housing. We could not be where we are today in Owsley County without national service. We cannot do this alone. Partnership Housing was on the verge of closing down. We had bills to pay but no assets to pay them. AmeriCorps provided us a Member to do case management, conduct housing visits and identify individual needs. AmeriCorps provided us support to make our dreams and goals a reality. AmeriCorps program provided an opportunity for the member to see first-hand what was happening in the community – what is behind those closed doors. Roofs are leaking into their light fixtures; folks are wrapped in blankets because they have no heat. AmeriCorps provided us the opportunity to build up our organization and serve our community.”

Now let me introduce you to Charles E. Long, Mayor of Booneville and Cale Turner, Judge Executive of Owsley County. Mayor Long is the oldest and longest serving Mayor in the nation. I recently visited with Mayor Long to discuss volunteerism. He was very candid with me on the needs of Booneville. A World War II veteran, Mayor Long shared with me how he brought water and sewage to Booneville. Mayor Long laughed as he stated he “often wonders what did I get myself in to.” At 99 years old, he says, “I will serve as long as I am needed and can be of service to my community.”

Presenting Mayor Long with a Governor’s Citation for his service (Left to Right: Melissa Benton (Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service), Cassie Hudson (Executive Director, Partnership Housing), Rachael Marshall (AmeriCorps Alum, Housing Coordinator and Counselor), Amber Henrion (AmeriCorps Member), and Mayor Charles E. Long (front).
Presenting Mayor Long with a Governor’s Citation for his service. Left to Right: Melissa Benton (Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service), Cassie Hudson (Executive Director, Partnership Housing), Rachael Marshall (AmeriCorps Alum, Housing Coordinator and Counselor), Amber Henrion (AmeriCorps Member), and Mayor Charles E. Long (front).

Judge Turner was one of the many volunteers I meet to discuss the housing needs of their community. He has provided steadfast leadership to his community through his volunteerism and service. Judge Turners stated that, “In one of the most poverty ridden counties in the United States, you scrape together just enough money to get an organization incorporated. Without AmeriCorps, we would have never had the resources to get Partnership Housing off the ground. Neither county nor city government had to the money to support it. The rewards to this community with AmeriCorps have been immense. I do not think Partnership Housing would exist today if it had not been for AmeriCorps National Service. The collaboration with Partnership Housing and AmeriCorps has been one of the best things that has happened to Owsley County in my lifetime. We are changing lives every day. I hate to think what would have happened in this community without them.”

In my personal reflections, I often think about my own journey since my AmeriCorps service. I recall the AmeriCorps pledge, often honing in on “faced with adversity, I will persevere.” I think about Owsley County and the stigma they have carried for so many years. I have witnessed first-hand their perseverance as a community to solve their problems through volunteerism and service.

Today and this week, let us celebrate all the citizen volunteers who raise up to serve their communities, who identify community needs and work and serve together to strengthen our communities. There will be apathy but we must raise above it and take action. We will have conflict but we must celebrate common ground to move forward. And we must commit to serving our communities.

Happy National Volunteer Week, and let’s continue to shine the light on our citizen volunteers!

Melissa Benton is the Volunteer Generation Fund Manager at the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service. Created in 1994, the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service (KCCVS) manages Kentucky’s AmeriCorps national service programs. The commission is a statewide, bipartisan group of up to 25 members, appointed by the governor, with diverse service and volunteerism backgrounds. The KCCVS serves as a conduit for federal funds that support AmeriCorps programs in the commonwealth, encourage and recognize volunteerism and assist in service program development. KCCVS funding is provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Kentucky General Assembly. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is the parent agency for the commission, providing administrative support and oversight.

To learn more about Kentucky’s Volunteer Generation Fund activities, click here.

 

Small-But-Mighty! Kansas Launches Three-Pronged Approach to Volunteer Generation Fund Initiative

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 the Kansas Volunteer Commission (KVC).

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Hello, everyone! My name is Jamie Crispin and I am the Outreach & Engagement Specialist at the Kansas Volunteer Commission (KVC) located in Topeka. My commission prides itself on being a small-but-mighty staff. I am sure many of you can relate. Our goals are all the same, right? We strive to increase volunteerism. We want to recruit the best organizations for the AmeriCorps State program. We aim to provide responsive and current training to our community partners. All the while, hoping we go another year without an IPERA audit. Eek, why did I say it out loud?

Sometimes, as a small-but-mighty commission, it seems there is always MORE we can do. We have big dreams, but a skeleton crew. We have big hearts, but restricted funds. So, what to do? Our solution! To write a competitive Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) proposal and pray to the grant gods for their favor.

As the state service commission, we know the data shows more Kansans are volunteering. Our schools encourage a life of civic engagement, our businesses want to give back, and families are seeking volunteer opportunities together. Our state has a strong volunteering spirit and at the commission level we wanted to foster that spirit.
On the flip side, our nonprofits and especially volunteer centers are attempting to meet the increased demand. Their response is to foster new partnerships and expand their coverage areas to engage more volunteers. Of course, many of them are doing this with no change to their budget or staffing structure. The small-but-mighty staff syndrome seems to be an epidemic. As a result, we have been looking for a solution to change their flat lined funding.

To find the pulse of the state’s needs, we surveyed volunteer managers and volunteer center staff about the resources they were lacking. We collaborated closer with our hosting organization, Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), knowing civic engagement was part of their strategic plan. We reviewed our State Service Plan to see how our priorities intersected with the above. After lots of brainstorming, we created three initiatives to generate more Kansas volunteers: 1) build capacity in volunteer connector organizations, 2) become a Service Enterprise Hub and 3) encourage school-based volunteering. We felt strongly that these initiatives would help the volunteer programs, but moreover, support the staff engaging those volunteers, too.

Well, the grant gods did look upon us with favor. On one fine day last year, KVC became one of 15 state service commissions to receive the VGF funding. For once, our small-but-mighty staff felt accomplished, progressive, and in-the-game! After high-fives and cheers all around, it was time to get down to business.

Fast forward to now, the KVC has awarded nearly $80,000 to four volunteer connector agencies in Kansas. For all four organizations, this money means hiring additional staff to do more good. In their words, this funding has filled a much needed gap and lifted some weight from their shoulders. To us, we know the volunteer connector agencies will have greatest reach in our state’s volunteerism. Recently, we conducted a day-long training with our subgrantees. Each presented on their organizations and VGF goals. We were overwhelmed by their passion, persistence, and commitment to their counties. We can’t say it loud enough. Great things are happening in Kansas, just watch!

Kansas is proud to be ranked #7 in volunteering among states according to the Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. But, as a state service commission, we have our hearts set on being in the top five. This change cannot happen without preparing our voluntary organizations for the challenge. Earlier this year, KVC was accepted by Points of Light to become the first Service Enterprise Hub in Kansas. The Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI) is a national change management program which helps organizations better meet their missions through the power of volunteers. Being an SEI Hub, means facilitating the evidence-based certification process for interested organizations. KVC will train, coach, and support organizations who want to adjust their internal culture to effectively engage volunteers. KVC is happy to report we will be recruiting our first EVER SEI cohort this year. Woot woot!

If you are wondering about the SEI impact, let me tell you this certification will change the volunteer landscape in Kansas. For those that need evidence, according to the Points of Light website, “Research shows that nonprofits that operate as Service Enterprises are equally as effective as their peers but at almost half the median budget, and are significantly more adaptable, sustainable and capable of going to scale.” SEI certified organizations will connect more volunteers to community problems. Organizations, nonprofits, schools, mentoring organizations will reimagine service and what it looks like for their mission. That means a better return on volunteer investment, and hopefully, getting Kansas in the top five states for volunteering. Fingers crossed!
We have made great progress on our VGF initiatives, but soon to emerge will be the promotion of school-based volunteering. KVC staff will communicate and train Kansas schools on how using community volunteers will meet their unique needs. KVC is certain our expertise and resources will give schools the nudge they need in the right direction to use volunteers both inside and outside the classrooms. Stay tuned for our progress.
In all, we would not have the impact or technical knowledge to support the Kansas communities without this VGF funding. This grant means so much to our commission, but it means so much more to the agencies, volunteers, and communities who will benefit from this grant award.

So, during this National Volunteer Week, I find myself reflecting on our small-but-mighty staff and how our vision has always been mightier than us. For that, we don’t apologize. We see overestimating ourselves as one of our strengths. As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There is no place like home.” (And you thought we would finish this blog without a Wizard of Oz reference!) To us, there is no better way to tackle critical needs, but in local communities through local change makers.

As state commissions, we have the benefit of being part of a national network, but being rooted in our state networks. To all of those large-but-mighty and especially to the small-but-mighty staff, we say this, “dream big.”

May your vision always be bigger than your staff! Happy National Volunteer Week!

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KVC staff, Jamie Crispin and Destinee Parker, traveled to Atlanta to complete the Service Enterprise Hub Train-the-Trainer event at Points of Light office.
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The KVC staff bonded with the Kentucky commission staff members, Melissa Benton and Shannon Ramsey, at the Service Enterprise Hub training. Did you know that commissions that begin with the letter “K” have the most fun?!

Jamie Crispin is passionate about developing volunteer engagement leaders. As an AmeriCorps Alum and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer she understands the impact of volunteerism in our communities and on our personal development. Mrs. Crispin has over ten years’ experience engaging volunteers and recently earned her Certification in Volunteer Administration (CVA). Currently, she is the Outreach and Engagement Specialist at the Kansas Volunteer Commission. In her spare time, she chases after her two sons and enjoys listening to true crime podcasts.

Since 1993, the Kansas Volunteer Commission (KVC) has been promoting volunteerism by administering the AmeriCorps Kansas programs, strengthening volunteer centers, and supporting mentoring organizations through funds, training and technical assistance.

To learn more about Kansas’s VGF program and subgrantees, click here.

Maryland Volunteer Generation Fund boosts impact of volunteers in addressing critical community needs

Maryland VGF

This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month, we feature 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.

MARYLAND. The Maryland Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism (GOSV), the state service commission in the “Old Line State,” is a critical part of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. Through the use of federal dollars, it funds 19 AmeriCorps State programs in 2016-2017 program year to support disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families in Maryland.

Established in 1993, the office advocates for effective volunteer program management and recognizes volunteer service across the state on behalf of the Governor of Maryland. Each year, over 200,000 Maryland volunteers are recognized by the Governor’s Office through activities and services provided by the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism.

The Maryland GOSV also funds ten volunteer connector organizations and Maryland Volunteer Centers through the Volunteer Generation Fund to increase their ability to recruit and retain volunteers in diverse opportunities, as well as increase the organizations’ usage of effective volunteer management practices. The ten Volunteer Generation Fund grantees then utilize these funds to boost the impact of volunteers in addressing critical community needs.

Below is one story written by Maryland Commissioner Krista Gilmore of Cecil County Department of Community Services, who serves as the volunteer and community resource coordinator and has seen firsthand the impact VGF funds are having on Cecil County:

 

“Reflections on Cecil Cares and Two Exceptional Community Volunteers”

By Krista Gilmore, Commissioner, Maryland Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism

Each September, Volunteer Cecil sponsors Cecil Cares, which is a countywide day of service. We asked two of the members of the Cecil Cares Planning Team to share their thoughts on their involvement with the 2016 – and now 2017 – project, and here is what they had to say:

“I would like to start by saying how hard it is to put on paper my excitement for Cecil Cares 2016. I am very passionate about giving back and helping our community. To be a member of the planning team is a huge honor. Last year I, along with other volunteers, helped out at The Fair Hill Nature Center. We worked hard raking, planting, painting, and I had the pleasure of meeting new and wonderful people of our beautiful county (all while helping spruce up the gorgeous Fair Hill Nature Center!). I am very excited for Cecil Cares 2017!! I believe it is a great way to bring our community together for one day to give back. We worked hard, laughed and joked. I went home feeling great not just for doing a good deed but because of all the wonderful new neighbors that I met on that day!”

“Thanks for a successful Cecil Cares Project. As a unique community service project for nonprofits, volunteers and businesses, the work day was exceptional. First, I enjoyed networking, brainstorming and working with a variety of organizations throughout Cecil County who organized, promoted and secured the projects for our day of service. Next, partnering with businesses, religious organizations, schools, county government and nonprofit groups provided a connection for everyone. Finally, as a member of the Cecil Cares committee, a board member of the Fair Hill Nature Center, and a member of St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church, I had a front row seat regarding the preparation of this event. The church was a sponsor for one of the projects, and provided a community of volunteers to participate during our day of service to Cecil County. I can’t wait until next year, as we grow this legacy throughout Cecil County!”

In addition to our work on Cecil Cares, one of our goals for Volunteer Cecil is to celebrate volunteerism, and to tell the stories that are often overlooked. We look for people and events to showcase even when they are not included in our formal VGF reports. Two local residents were recently honored for their service: Ralph Young was inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, and Wilma Clay celebrated 25 years of service as a Home Delivered Meal volunteer! We are proud to know them [and] to highlight their service.

To learn more about Maryland’s Volunteer Generation Fund initiative and programming, visit gosv.maryland.gov/our-volunteer-generation-fund-grantees/.

Volunteer Mississippi engages 96,000 in volunteer service thanks to Volunteer Generation Fund

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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.

MISSISSIPPI. The mission of Volunteer Mississippi, the state commission on service and volunteerism in the Magnolia State, is to to engage and support Mississippians of all ages and backgrounds in service to their communities. Established in 1994 as the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service (MCVS), Volunteer Mississippi also administers the state’s volunteer center network with support from the Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF), helping mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

Last year, thanks to Volunteer Generation Fund support from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Mississippi Volunteer Center Network recruited or managed an overall total of 96,550 individual and group volunteers that served 875,246 hours for a wide range of causes throughout the state. Of the total number of volunteers, 51,981 were new volunteers who served 472,271 hours.

In addition, capacity building trainings were offered to 1,362 nonprofit participants — resulting in 167 nonprofit partners implementing 3 or more effective volunteer management practices.  The largest number of volunteers were active with programs that served Children and Family Services & Advocacy, Education, Hunger and Homelessness, and Disaster Services. Volunteer Centers hosted food, clothing, necessities and toy drives, and recruited volunteers to feed the homeless, build Habitat houses, read to children, and clean up parks and waterways. Volunteer Centers planned events and engaged 11,708 volunteers in projects for Family Volunteer Day in November; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in January; National Volunteer Week and Global Youth Service Day in April; 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance in September and Make a Difference Day in October, in addition to regional days of service like Day of Caring, Alternative Spring Break, the Big Event, and The Cotton Festival.

This year, 2017 is starting off strong with more than 31,000 volunteer engagements reported – 1,642 of those from Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service educational events, parades, breakfasts and community projects. Volunteer Centers around the state will be recognizing volunteers in the month of April with celebration dinners and lunches, and press conferences. Several Global Youth Service Day events are scheduled, with Volunteer Starkville as the lead agency this year.

To learn more about Volunteer Mississippi’s VGF program and subgrantees, visit volunteermississippi.org/.

Virginia’s Volunteer Generation Fund programs give back, help others from ‘cradle to career’

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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.

VIRGINIA. The mission of Virginia Service, the state commission on service and volunteerism in the “Old Dominion,” is to strengthen communities by inspiring Virginians to actively engage, volunteer, and serve. Virginia Service also administers the state’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program, providing subgrants to organizations that mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

Virginia is now in its third year of programming through the Volunteer Generation Fund.  The VGF program builds volunteer capacity in Virginia through local subgrantees who then work to increase the number of active volunteers and volunteer hours, as well as to strengthen volunteer organizations by incorporating effective volunteer management practices into their program operations.  The biggest overall impacts to date have been increased volunteer capacity throughout the state, improvement in organizations’ volunteer management practices, and heightened awareness of and appreciation for volunteers and the value they bring to an organization and the community.

The Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) in Virginia is comprised of four subgrantees in southwest, northern and central Virginia:

  1. The Appalachian Community Action and Development Agency focuses on volunteer activities for a mentoring program for high school seniors and an early childhood reading program for children of families utilizing local food pantries.
  2. Community Residences supports volunteers who provide assistance to individuals with mental health needs and intellectual disabilities through community housing property management, direct service, community engagement, and volunteer program administration and recruitment.
  3. The Council on Community Services is implementing a school-based volunteer program in the Roanoke Valley –  with the intention of replicating their model in other localities.
  4. The United Way of Southwest Virginia supports the agency’s “cradle to career” focus and provides tutoring for elementary school students who need assistance with reading and/or math skills; enhances middle school, high school and post-secondary achievement among local youth; and assists local agencies with the recruitment and retention of volunteers.
The VGF program also supports special large-scale volunteer day events. In January, Virginia’s Volunteer Generation Fund programs honored MLK Day with service events and projects designed to impact their communties. In Roanoke, the Council of Community Services teamed up with The Advancement Foundation, a local AmeriCorps program, to host a financial literacy workshop. In Scott and Lee counties, Appalachian Community Action and Development’s VGF program collected personal hygiene items and donated to low income individuals and families. In Northern Virginia, Community Residences, Inc., partnered with the Target location in Burke to visit one of their residences to clean up and visit with residents. Volunteers also worked with the Tysons Corner Maggiano’s to prepare meals for home residents and teach them cooking skills. In Abingdon, the United Way of Southwest Virginia recruited volunteers to participate in a celebration that included a discussion on race relations in Southwest Virginia, followed by a unity march. Volunteers also painted and repaired the Charles Wesley Church parsonage. Click here to read the Bristol Herald Courier’s newspaper article about the MLK Day service projects.

In February, the United Way of Southwest Virginia became a certifying organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Organizations and individuals in Southwest Virginia can now nominate outstanding volunteers for this award which was created by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.

In March, the United Way of Southwest Virginia celebrated the companies and individuals whose contributions to the organization in 2016 had a direct impact on the lives of working families in Southwest Virginia at the 2017 Impact Awards in Abingdon. The awards acknowledged volunteers, individuals, employee groups and corporations who lent their outstanding support to volunteer efforts, the campaign, and impact initiatives. The Volunteer of the Year in Education award went to Kent Berryman for his volunteer service with Smart Beginnings, an United Way program that works to improve access and quality of service to families with small children. The Volunteer of the Year in Financial Stability was presented to Virginia Cooperative Extension – Southwest District for their regional efforts in preparing students for their future with initiatives such as reality stores and career fairs. The Volunteer of the Year in Health award recipient was Chris Owens who has been instrumental in her leadership with the Healthy Community Action Team (HCAT) in Smyth County. Click here to view a full listing of the award recipients.

To learn more about Virginia Service’s VGF program and subgrantees, visit virginiaservice.virginia.gov/.