Matchmaker for volunteers

Matchmaker for volunteers

November 10th, 2009 by Susan Pierce in Entertainment

Last year, 3,978 volunteers placed by the United Way Volunteer Center logged 67,859 hours helping others, a donation of manpower valued at $1.37 million.

The Volunteer Center is a community resource pairing volunteers with agencies' needs throughout United Way's 16-county service area.

Windy Brooks, director of the center, is the matchmaker who brings the volunteers and nonprofits together.

"I work one-on-one with individuals who are looking for a way to give back to help them find a good fit, but I also work with corporate HR managers or community-relations managers who are looking for volunteer opportunities that match their company's objectives," she said.

During her first year in the position, Ms. Brooks organized a series of workshops for HR managers and volunteer directors on how to work with volunteers with disabilities.

"This is a group that we want to tap into. It's a large demographic, and volunteering is a great way for people with disabilities to learn new skills and get involved in the community," she said.

According to Kelley Nave, director of public relations for United Way of Greater Chattanooga, the top three placements Chattanooga's volunteers serve are 1) religious organizations, 42.8 percent; 2) education or youth service organizations, 30.8 percent; and 3) social-service organizations: 12.7 percent.

To become a volunteer, call 752-0316.

About Windy Brooks

Age: 47.

Hometown: Littleton, N.C.

Education: B.S. in human services from Upper Iowa University.

Personal: Married to William Brooks, enjoys reading and running.

QUICK FACTS

Favorite volunteer position: Reading to second-graders at Lakeside Academy.

Last book read: "Monday Morning Leadership for Women" by Valerie Sokolosky.

Favorite Movie: "It's a Wonderful Life" by Frank Capra.

People would never suspect that I ... sky-dived with the Golden Knights at 14,000 feet. The Golden Knights are the Army's precision performance parachute team.

Q. How many nonprofits are signed up with the Volunteer Center?

A. The Volunteer Center works with all nonprofit organizations in our service area -- schools, churches and agencies -- not just United Way partners. The number of volunteer positions we have at any given time changes constantly. Right now we have about 52 active volunteer positions for which we are recruiting.

Q. How many people signed up for the recent Live United drive to enlist 1,000 volunteers?

A. A few hundred. While we didn't reach our goal, it was a great learning experience, and we brought in a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise have gotten involved.

Q. What is the biggest misconception about volunteering?

Many people don't realize what constitutes volunteering. If you teach Sunday school, you're a volunteer. If you do something for your child's class at school, you're a volunteer.

Another misconception is that volunteers are all old or all young, when the truth is that we have a wide variety of ages volunteering -- the right opportunity is out there for everyone.

Q. Why volunteer?

A. Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, and it creates real impact. It's also a good way to express gratitude for help you may have received.

You can make important networking contacts, learn new skills, explore your interests, add value to college applications and enhance your work resumés, learn about possible careers and gain work experience.


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