Volunteer Generation Fund makes Community Radio Possible in King County, Washington through Volunteer Manager Corps (VMC)

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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.

WASHINGTON. The mission of Serve Washington, the state service commission in the Evergreen State, is to advance national service, volunteerism and civic engagement to improve lives; expand opportunity to meet the local critical needs of residents of Washington; and strengthen community capacity while creating healthy and resilient communities. Serve Washington administers the state’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program, providing subgrants to two major entities that mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities: 501 Commons (a non-profit organization) and a statewide association called Volunteer Centers of Washington (VCW).  The VCW provides mini-grants to volunteer centers in Washington State with VGF funds.

501 Commons uses VGF funds to add a group of low-power FM (LPFM) King County radio stations to their Volunteer Manager Corps (VMC) Program.  Through these nonprofit, commercial-free media outlets, anyone can become part of the voice of their surrounding area, whether that takes the form of starting conversations, sharing health and emergency response information or featuring musicians, artists and other forms of local culture.

Volunteer committees are the building blocks of the community radio model, however, these stations do not currently have the internal resources necessary to fully involve volunteers in the support of their mission. The VMC program helps foster the development and growth of these stations by creating a volunteer management toolkit that lays the ground work for their success.

VMC members help develop the infrastructure necessary for the stations to effectively recruit, engage and retain high-value volunteers. These key volunteers work behind the scenes with 7 stations to create a volunteer management toolkit including:
Position descriptions for essential volunteer roles
An outline of a volunteer orientation
A volunteer handbook
A volunteer screening process
A volunteer feedback survey

LPFM Background:
Each of these stations is a member of the Puget Sound Community Radio Cohort (PSCRC), the nation’s first alliance for nonprofit radio station applicants to pool resources and foster a learning community.  The goal of the LPFM Accelerator and consulting engagement with 501 Commons is to build organizational capacity with a specific focus on fundraising, volunteer management and equitable community outreach that informs, engages and mirrors the LPFM Accelerator’s target audiences.

The LPFM Accelerator Stakeholders are:
Debra Twersky, 4Culture
Debra Webb, 501 Commons
Sabrina Roach, Brown Paper Tickets
Ernesto Aguilar, National Federation of Community Broadcasters
Antoine Heywood, Alliance for Community Media and PhillyCAM (Public Access Center with LPFM)

LPFM Accelerator Participants include:
Earth on the Air Radio
Fulcrum Community Radio
Hollow Earth Radio
Magnuson Radio
One America
Valley Radio
Rainier Valley Radio

The work is further strengthened by the contributions of Racial Equity Advisors:
Sahar Fathi, City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
Vicky Yuki and Delia Burke, Seattle IT’s Community Technology Program
Diana Falchuck, Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative Strategic Advisor
Valerie Wonder and Davida Ingram, Seattle Public Library

You can read more about LPFM here.

To learn more about Serve Washington and its programs, visit servewashington.wa.gov/.


501 Commons helps communities Prepare/Respond/Serve

501 Commons first created the Prepare/Respond/Serve program to help nonprofits create emergency preparedness plans. Through the Washington Commission of Volunteer Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund, the program has been expanded to low income housing properties. One of the innovations of this program is how it utilizes veteran volunteers, whose valuable skills help these communities build robust emergency preparedness plans. This program helps community organizations, especially those in vulnerable populations, respond to emergencies and recover quickly.

The local Volunteer Centers have assisted in recruiting skill-based veteran, active-duty, and bilingual volunteers. The program is able to pull from a database of over 450 volunteers in order to access those that are available and willing to apply their skills to the project. Another innovation is the customized planning tools that help communities build their emergency preparedness plans; the tools are the PRS Assessment©, pre- and post- questionaire to measure the levels of preparedness in the community, and a PRS Guide© that is customized for low-income communities. Another innovation is the high ability for replication of the program by the 501 Commons service members who share their skills in emergency preparedness with new service corps members. As an example, 501 Commons organized a teleconference for alumni to share their skills and knowledge with newer members last year.

To learn more about this program, see pages 69-70 in the Transforming Communities Through Service Publication.

2013 Outstanding Service Program

Washington Conservation Corps, Washington

2013 Innovation & Leadership Awards –  Outstanding Service Program
Nominated by ServeWashington

“If we get another Nor’Easter, these people no longer have to evacuate, because of your crews they get to stay in their home, comfortable and confident that the ocean will not come and haunt them again…The structure of the WCC is something very special and I know that our recovery efforts would not be the same if it weren’t for them all being here.”

 — Courtney Chibbaro, Volunteer Coordinator, South Seaside Park

wcc_treeslogo_waterbottlesThe Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) was established in 1983 as a service program for young adults between the ages of 18-25. It has been an AmeriCorps program since 1994. Offered through the Washington State Department of Ecology, WCC continues the legacy started by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. The WCC provides work experience, mentoring, and both formal and informal training to members through projects that support conservation, rehabilitation, and enhancement of Washington’s natural, historic, environmental and recreational resources. Today, the WCC has 260 AmeriCorps members serving on over 50 crews in nearly every part of the state.

The unemployment rate for young adults, ages 18-25, and veterans returning from war, is nearly 20 percent. The WCC fills a niche for both demographics by providing opportunities for young adults and recently returning military veterans to gain new skills through service in the environmental field. The WCC focuses its efforts in four priority areas: 1) protecting and restoring the environment; 2) responding to local and national disasters; 3) increasing opportunities for recently returning veterans; and 4) instilling values of hard work and volunteerism.

These AmeriCorps…are champions. I’m in awe of their hard work and dedication. What an example of youthful enthusiasm. My faith in young Americans is restored. Powerful display of teamwork and selflessness.” –Donald Caetano, FEMA Region II External Affairs Director

Robyn Harris and Debbie Schuffenhauer of ServeWashington, accept the 2013 Outstanding Service Program Award on behalf of Washington Conservation Corps at the 2012 ASC Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 17, 2013.
Robyn Harris and Debbie Schuffenhauer of ServeWashington, accept the 2013 Outstanding Service Program Award on behalf of Washington Conservation Corps at the 2012 ASC Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 17, 2013.

The WCC not only protects and preserves the environment in Washington State, but they are a recognized leader in disaster response efforts across the country. Through the CNCS/FEMA Disaster Response Cooperative Agreement, the WCC is able to play a key role in helping communities respond and recover from disasters. In recent years, the WCC has responded to the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic hurricane – Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to the catastrophic EF5 Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011, to historic 2012 wildfires in Eastern Washington, and most recently, the wreckage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In late October 2012, the eastern United States was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, causing an estimated $70 billion in damage and leaving millions without power. Within days, WCC crews were deployed to New Jersey and New York, two of the most severely impacted states. To date, 22 WCC Supervisors and 106 WCC AmeriCorps members have served over 38,000 hours in the response effort.