The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown
HAGERSTOWN, Md. - With budgets still tight, one Washington County agency has decided not to compete for dwindling nonprofit dollars but to support the area's approximately 500 not-for-profit groups with precious human capital instead.
Known as Volunteer Washington County, the nonprofit agency provides volunteer recruitment for organizations by connecting those wanting to serve with those in need of volunteers.
"I see us as serving as the volunteer coordinator for all 500 nonprofits in the county," said Bernadette Wagner co-director of the 501(c)3 organization.
In 2009 Wagner and her fellow former Washington County school board member Roxanne Ober, got the ball rolling for Volunteer Washington County, positioning it as a supporter of existing nonprofits rather than a competitor, Wagner said.
Wagner said her desire to make a difference prompted her to quit her paying job as a speech pathologist in Pennsylvania to run Volunteer Washington County, for which she is not paid.
"I think what Volunteer Washington County tries to do is complement the needs of organizations with the assets in the community," she said. "The whole idea is that everybody has something to offer."
The No. 1 reason people don't volunteer is because they have not been asked to give their time, said Leah Gayman, executive director of United Way of Washington County, a partner of Volunteer Washington County.
For an organization like the United Way, volunteers are its lifeblood, Gayman said.
For those who want to get involved but don't know where to start, Volunteer Washington County is able to provide easy access to numerous opportunities for giving their time, she said.
"Engaging volunteers has to be easy and accessible, and Volunteer Washington County has done that," Gayman said.
Getting involved is now as easy as a few mouse clicks on http://www.volunteerwashingtoncountymd.org, Wagner said.
By clicking a button on the home page that reads, "I want to volunteer!," those who want to add their name to the center's general database can fill out a form.
Those seeking a specific cause or organization can click a link to search by keyword or through a list of agencies to find out what volunteers opportunities are available.
Organizations needing volunteers can click a button on the website that reads, "We need volunteers!," to be added to the site.
When community leaders crafted the Strategic Community Impact Plan, laying out goals for improving the quality of life in the county, Wagner said the process was about forgetting individual wants and focusing on community needs.
The only organization mentioned in the back of the SCIP document was Volunteer Washington County, said Gayman, whose organization helped initiate the SCIP.
SCIP authors deliberately chose to include Volunteer Washington County for those who felt they could meet a need, but needed a place to start, she said.
Wager said Volunteer Washington County embraces the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: `What are you doing for others?'"
In honor of King's legacy, the organization is hosting the first countywide MLK Day of Service/Evening of Celebration on Monday.
It is partnering with the numerous organizations, businesses, and the county on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to collect hearing aids, eyeglasses, women's clothing, e-trash _ which includes computers, printers, scanners, fax machines and televisions no bigger than 28 inches _ and books that are not textbooks or encyclopedias, Wagner said.
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com
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