United Way Celebrates National Volunteer Month
April 22, 2019 (Salisbury, MD)
United Way Celebrates National Volunteer Month
Since 1991, the month of April has been designated as National Volunteer Month, with the purpose of celebrating the impact of volunteerism. This April, the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore (UWLES) is continuing to promote and facilitate volunteer efforts in local communities, and to raise the profile of community organizations, volunteer service, and community impact.
UWLES is proud to provide the community with the GET CONNECTED Volunteer Center. This is a free online tool to connect community members to local organizations where they can make a difference. As the designated Volunteer Center with the Governor’s Office on Service & Volunteerism for Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore, GET CONNECTED helps community service agencies, nonprofits, and community members connect and make a positive impact. Community service organizations are able to post volunteer needs and opportunities on the GET CONNECTED site; it is not limited to United Way partner agencies. GET CONNECTED currently links over 130 organizations with community volunteers. It includes features helpful for students completing their service learning requirements, such as the ability to track hours. The site can be accessed at www.shoregetconnected.org.
The site was utilized to manage the 1,000+ volunteers who supported the National Folk Festival in 2018, and UWLES will once again provide resources to coordinate volunteers for the event taking place September 6-8, 2019. Folk Festival volunteers are needed to help with event set up, transportation, marketplace and family areas, the “green team,” and many more opportunities which will be available for signups by early May.
"Volunteers are the backbone of the National Folk Festival and without their support, we would not be able to produce this FREE 3-day large scale event each year. Partnering with the United Way and the GET CONNECTED online volunteer center allows us not only to recruit new volunteers, but also helps us organize hundreds of shifts and communicate quickly and effectively with our over 1,000 volunteers,” said National Folk Festival Local Manager Caroline O’Hare.
“In 2018, our city came together and showed their commitment to service and community and aim to do the same in 2019. With GET CONNECTED's help, we were able to do amazing things and grew even stronger as a community together,” O’Hare added.
UWLES also offers volunteer opportunities through several affinity groups. The focus of the affinity group Women United is to provide hands on volunteer support for selected projects that meet the critical needs of our local communities. Girls on the Run is one of Women United’s youth initiatives. The program uses running to teach girls in grades 6 through 8 empowerment and leadership skills—and ends with a celebratory 5K run! In 2017, Women United launched a program called Read to Succeed which matches volunteers with second graders who could benefit from a one-on-one reading coach. In its second year the program expanded from one school to three, and currently has 73 volunteers.
Says Wicomico County Supervisor of Elementary Reading Renee Hall, “Having the extra boost of one-on-one time with a mentor through Read to Succeed helps students make the important transition from learning to read to reading to learn. It’s a way for volunteers in the community to directly affect something we are all invested in—the education of children.”
The Emerging Leaders group is composed of young professionals who are strengthening their roles as community leaders. The group is committed to volunteer work that allows members to see the direct impact of their efforts on the most vulnerable members of the community. In addition, the Emerging Leaders fund and coordinate the UWLES holiday giving program, which provides holiday gifts and food to local families in need, in partnership with local school systems. The group held an inaugural Dodgeball Tournament fundraiser in March, to raise funds for the holiday program.
The Student United Way (SUW) offers college students a chance to gain leadership and professional development skills while serving the community. SUW was created in 2013, and represents a partnership between UWLES and Salisbury University. The club emphasizes fundraising, advocacy, and volunteerism. The club currently has 70 active members. During the 2017/18 academic year, Student United Way members volunteered over 4000 hours on 87 volunteer projects. SUW expanded to Wor-Wic Community College in 2017.
“Volunteerism is a significant way to give back in our community,” commented UWLES President/CEO Pam Gregory. “Nonprofits rely on volunteers for all types of support; From a one-time project, to event help, to board service, there are many ways for neighbors of all ages to step in and lend a hand. Working together makes our whole community stronger.”
Community members who are seeking to get involved through volunteerism are encouraged to visit the GET CONNECTED site at www.shoregetconnected.org. Additional information on the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore’s affinity groups can be found at www.unitedway4us.org/join-affinity-group.
About United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore:
Now in its 74th year, United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore provides funding and direct services for over 80 critical programs serving Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset and Dorchester Counties. United Way helps Eastern Shore residents obtain Educational Success by reducing the achievement gap between low and middle income students, Financial Stability by advancing the economic security of families and individuals in our community, and Good Health by improving access to and awareness of local health and wellness services. United Way provides over $1.6 million to community programs, impacting 1 of every 3 individuals on the Lower Shore. For more information on United Way or to get involved, visit www.unitedway4us.org
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