You've heard it said: "It takes a village to raise a child." We've also learned that it takes a community to get a volunteer center started.
The need for a volunteer clearinghouse in Clay County was identified last December when representatives from local agencies got together to discuss their unfilled needs for volunteers. Although Clay County is known for its volunteer ethic, there hasn't been an organized way to match potential volunteers with service opportunities.
The RSVP Volunteer Program has been placing volunteers in Northwest Iowa for 40 years, but the program is limited in that only people 55 and over can serve as RSVP volunteers.
Once it was determined that there was a high level of interest in and support for a volunteer center, a Clay County Community Foundation grant was written to help with start-up costs including a web site, dedicated phone line, supplies and staff time. The grant was funded, a start-up team was formed, and we were off and running.
After almost a year of research, public meetings, strategic planning, developing policies, and participating in brainstorming sessions, the Volunteer Network of Clay County is up and running. We are now accepting registrations from people wanting to volunteer and requests for volunteers from non-profit organizations and public agencies.
Volunteers can register online by going to the Volunteer Network website at www.volunteerclaycounty.com, by calling 712-580-IVOL, or by stopping by the RSVP/Volunteer Network office located at Iowa Lakes Community College, Gateway North Center, 1900 North Grand Ave., Suite B1, Spencer. Non-profit organizations and public agencies may advertise their volunteer needs by registering online, by phone or in person.
An ongoing challenge will be financial sustainability. Donations to the Volunteer Network are now being accepted.
As one of the people involved in the creation of the Volunteer Network of Clay County, I'd like to thank those who have contributed so much time to the effort over the past year, including the board members: Joe Skow, Kim Wilson, Theresa Reardon, Amy Simpson, Christi Gabhart, John Rahn, Randy Cauthron, Jane Nolan Goeken, Bonnie Dalager, Alison Howe, Erin Pingel, Jill Toft, Megan Hess, Stacia Timmer, Linda Thiessen, Scott Finneran, and Susan Howe.
A special thanks to Bonnie Dalager for designing the website; Jane Nolan Goeken for leading the strategic planning session; Bill Kersting, Randy Cauthron and Susan Howe for promoting the Volunteer Network through the media; and Alison Howe and Erin Pingel for coordinating efforts with the Blue Zones initiative and the Volunteer Network.
Watch for this column every Thursday on the "Friends and Family" page for more information and updates on the Volunteer Network of Clay County.