Throughout the United Way of Story County (UWSC) LIVE UNITED campaign, this column is highlighting different programs in each of the three community impact areas of education, income and health to give readers an idea of the work being done locally.
In the area of education, UWSC supports volunteer management through Central Iowa Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and the Volunteer Center of Story County (VCSC). Not only do volunteers deliver a variety of services throughout our community, saving many organizations lots of money, but they play a critical role in enhancing our educational goals as well.
For example, RSVP volunteers are screened and given a skills and interest survey. Those interested in working in education-based assignments can be placed in public and private schools, as well as other education-based organizations, working with students as tutors and mentors to help them succeed academically.
RSVP Director Kalen Petersen says funding is critical to RSVP’s sustainability. “Because of support from United Way of Story County, RSVP is able to provide volunteer management services that mobilize volunteers who are age 55 plus in addressing critical community needs, including the area of education.”
VCSC Executive Director Shellie Orngard says VCSC uses UWSC funding to connect volunteers with opportunities to serve in the Story County community. Last year, a total of 7,783 clients were served in Volunteer Management, and education is involved in several ways.
“Through our Volunteer Management service, we provide professional development for nonprofit staff who works with volunteers, and we recruit and prepare volunteers to work in educational settings,” said Orngard.
For instance, VCSC recruits and mobilizes volunteers to work with service learning programs at the Ames Community Schools. “We manage the school gardens at Kate Mitchell and Sawyer elementary schools as a way of introducing kids to healthy food,” says Orngard. “The gardens are also used as an outdoor learning lab for academic subjects like science, math and reading.”
VCSC also find volunteers for community education programs, such as cooking classes at the Boys and Girls Club and at the Assault Care Center (ACCESS) shelter, and tutoring of children at the Community Housing Initiative’s Ames Enrichment Academy and in the elementary schools.
UWSC as an organization can also speak to the benefits of volunteering. For 60 years, we have depended on volunteers to help fulfill our vision and mission, and we couldn’t do what we do without the many volunteers who support our work.
(Sara Wilson is marketing director for United Way of Story County, a strategic leader in building countywide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.)