The center, which is not an actual building but an interactive website, connects community members with volunteer opportunities to serve this community, as well as serving as a central hub for organizations seeking volunteers to list their opportunities.
The site for the United Way’s Volunteer Center is www.volunteerocoee.org.
“Very often, we have people contacting us at the United Way seeking volunteer opportunities, and if we were unaware of any specific possibilities, we would have them contact local non-profit agencies or churches or others directly,” said Matt Ryerson, United Way of Bradley County president and CEO. “With the Volunteer Center, they will now have direct access to learn about these opportunities.”
Emily McComb, Community Action Network associate, said that the Volunteer Center was born from a collaborative effort by Lee University and the United Way.
“Lee has always done a great job connecting its students to volunteer opportunities, so now, we are mirroring that model, along with the Volunteer Center of United Way of Greater Chattanooga, to connect our community in a similar way,” she said.
McComb said both Lee University and Cleveland State Community College were seeking additional ways to connect their students and student groups with service projects, so they were very interested in the development of the Volunteer Center.
Other entities have also expressed their wishes to have a central location where they could either search for volunteer opportunities, or post needs for volunteers with their organizations.
“That is what the United Way Volunteer Center does,” noted Jaynese Waddell, community impact associate. “It connects community assets to community needs. It connects those wanting to help with those needing help, and those in need with those who desire to serve and make a difference in our community.”
To make sure organizations know the philosophy behind the center and how to use the many tools available for recruiting volunteers, each of the entities wanting to post opportunities must go through a special training.
“We have already had six separate trainings for those organizations wanting to use the Volunteer Center, and have others planned for August,” McComb said. “In order to post projects, organizations must attend a training. The required trainings equip programs to provide and promote great opportunities.”
Once they go through these training sessions and begin posting opportunities, then these service projects will be available for anyone to find on the Volunteer Center website. Not only are they posted, but are categorized into special areas.
“That way, someone can search for a project by either seeking it through his or her personal interests or abilities,” Waddell said.
The site includes a calendar of volunteer opportunities and potential volunteers can find places to serve that meet the free time they have available.
“Many organizations will be able to use this site, and post needs to this site, including non-profit organizations, hospices, schools, churches, government programs, hospitals and nursing homes, just to name a few,” Waddell noted.
Ryerson said this will also allow businesses and industries in the community to find volunteer opportunities for their employees.
“We are engaging these industries with the non-profit world, and in the end, we all benefit,” he said. “That’s what we are doing at United Way … collaborating with others, such as offering a centralized location to post volunteer opportunities, to make our community an even better place to live and work.”
For interested organizations, the next training session is scheduled for Aug. 14 at 10 a.m. at the United Way offices on Ocoee Street. Other sessions that have been scheduled include: Sept. 12, 2 to 4 p.m.; Sept. 24, 10 a.m. to noon; Oct. 15, 2 to 4 p.m.; Nov. 6, 9 to 11 a.m.; and Nov. 21, 2 to 4 p.m.
Signing up for any of these training sessions can be done at www.volunteerocoee.org. For more information, contact Jaynese Waddell at the United Way of Bradley County offices.