The idea of a volunteer clearinghouse came up almost a year ago when a group of people got together to discuss the need for additional volunteers in Clay County.
At the present time, the RSVP Volunteer Program is the only local organization that recruits and places volunteers for any non-profit or public agency or with individuals in need of assistance. While RSVP meets many of the community volunteer needs, the program is limited as it may only recruit people 55 and older.
"We feel there is a real need for younger volunteers and that getting people involved in volunteerism early -- even elementary school kids -- creates a habit of volunteerism," Mary Steele, a member of the Volunteer Network board, said.
Last December, a meeting was conducted with invited area organizations to discuss the interest in the concept of a county-wide volunteer clearinghouse. Those involved included organizations which utilized volunteers; some could provide and help recruit volunteers, and some could help with fundraising or publicity. At the meeting, approximately 40 people participated, including representation from the local cable channel, radio station and newspaper.
RSVP staff wrote a Clay County Community Foundation grant to launch the Volunteer Network and received $4,846 - the full amount requested. This seed money has been designated to cover initial costs such as supplies, website design, publicity and staff time. By utilizing the current RSVP coordinator, staff time will be minimal - probably about 5-10 hours a week. The Volunteer Network is co-located with RSVP at Iowa Lakes Community College, which will also reduce the amount of funding needed.
"It's very important that people realize this has to be a community effort and not just an RSVP project," Steele said. "We need the whole community's support for this to be successful."
Clay County Supervisor Joe Skow, a member of the board, added, "We are hoping, and have from the inception, that all of Clay County would participate both as partners as well as individuals. And we are hoping to have people of all ages participate. We would like to have families and small groups get involved also."
To date, the group has selected a name and tagline; the Volunteer Network of Clay County: Connecting Volunteers and Service Opportunities. It has also participated in a strategic planning session to determine priorities, goals and what the organizers want the Volunteer Network to look like in five years.; and established a vision statement. It has also developed a web presence, and created a Facebook page to enhance communications.
"The Volunteer Network website has been launched, and although we still have more work to do on it, organizations that utilize volunteers can fill out a Partner Agreement and submit volunteer job descriptions online," Steele said. "Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to go to the website (www.volunteerclaycounty.com) to register and see what volunteer opportunities are available. New volunteer opportunities - both ongoing and one-time activities will be added to the web site as we get them."
She added, "Facebook users are encouraged to 'Like' the Volunteer Network of Clay County and become a 'fan.'"
Anyone not comfortable using the Internet can call 580-IVOL or stop by the RSVP office at Iowa Lakes Community College, Gateway North Center, to find out how to register.
Within the next 60 days, the group hopes volunteers of all ages will be needed for both short-term, one-time activities or for ongoing volunteer commitments.
Volunteer groups - families, businesses, youth groups, and service clubs -as well as individuals, will be encouraged to register; and organizations and individuals who need volunteer assistance will be encouraged to become a Volunteer Network partner.
As the group moves through the process to obtain a 501c3 status, it will also be identifying funding sources to create a sustainable budget after the Community Foundation grant period ends.
Skow believes there is a need to coordinate the volunteer efforts in the area.
"So many great organizations and nonprofit groups have been formed over the years that relied mostly on volunteers. People move away, or for health reasons or whatever else are unable to keep involved. As this occurs there are less and less people to keep things going. We know that people live a longer happier life if they are involved in helping others," he said.
Skow continued, "A database is being established to match volunteers to those in need. Recruitment is going to be a vital part of this succeeding. Personally, I would love to see 50 percent of the county's population be involved with at least one volunteer activity."
- Post your volunteer needs on the Volunteer Network web site (volunteerclaycounty.com) and in the weekly column.
- The Volunteer Network can identify projects for your organization to do as a group, or for you to do as individuals.
How can you help?:
- Sign up to be a volunteer
- Serve on the start-up team. Many of the members will also become board members.
- Let the Volunteer Network staff know about your organizations' volunteer needs
- Support the Volunteer Network financially
- Raise awareness of the Volunteer Network by telling others about it
- For more information, contact Susan Howe or Mary Steele at 262-8858.