Monday, November 13, 2017

Family and Volunteering – Get Involved on November 18!

It's easy to feel disconnected, as parent’s juggle work, school, kids, and numerous activities. But some simple things can bring a family closer — playing a game, going for a hike, or cooking a meal together.
One of the most satisfying, fun, and productive ways to unite is volunteering for community service projects. Volunteerism also sets a good example for your kids and helps the Cedar Valley.
So why should your family lend a helping hand?
It feels good. The joy and pride that come from helping others are important reasons to volunteer. When you commit your time and effort to an organization or a cause you feel strongly about, the feeling of fulfillment can be endless.
It strengthens your community. Organizations and agencies that use volunteers are providing important services at no cost to those who need them. When the Cedar Valley is doing well as a whole, its citizens are better off, too.
It can strengthen your family. Volunteerism is a great way for families to have fun and feel closer. Many people say they don't have the time to volunteer. Try reconsidering some of your free time as a family. You could select just one or two projects a year and make them a family tradition.
What Kids Can Learn from Volunteering
If volunteering begins at an early age, it can become part of kids' lives — something they might just expect and want to do.

It can teach them:
  • A sense of responsibility.
  • That one person can make a difference.
  • The benefit of sacrifice.
  • Tolerance.
  • Job skills. How to fill idle time wisely.

Take Action! Family Volunteer Day!

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley will celebrate the power of families on Saturday, November 18 from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

Teach your children the importance of service and nurture the desire to give back to the community.

Families will have an opportunity to participate in 6 stations set up for families to make service projects for agencies in the community. Representatives from some community agencies will have displays featuring family-friendly volunteering opportunities.

Join us for Family Volunteer Day of Service!

For more information on volunteering contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at (319) 272-2087, information@vccv.org, or visit www.vccv.org.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Gratitude for Our Veterans

President Kennedy asked, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. Our brave and selfless men and women in uniform who serve our country embody this great and noble thought with courage and strength that deserve our highest gratitude — not just on Veterans Day but each and every day of our lives.

We can never thank this elite group of Americans enough for their service to our great nation and to each and every American who enjoys the freedoms and liberties which define us as a person. It has been said that freedom is never free; how can we not be grateful and thankful to the men and women who pay the price of spending precious time away from their families, who endure the endless dangers of warfare?


It is also important to remember that for most of us these are men and women who we have never met or will ever know, and yet they fight for us to give us the rights and privileges that not everyone around the world can claim they have in their lives. And the irony of it all is that if these brave souls return alive, it isn’t as if they are asking anyone for anything in return! Their love for this country and fellow Americans transcends wanting such accolades; how can we not be eternally grateful for such unselfishness?


Each and every man and woman who serves is an inspiration of dedication and bravery which commands our unwavering respect, gratitude and complete appreciation. Let us also remember the proud patriots who did not return home. That dedication of a lifetime defines true patriotism. 

These brave souls have given not only their time, effort, and commitment, and — most importantly — their very lives for the protection and preservation of the ideals and values of this great country. 


When trying to put into words our gratitude for all that these brave souls encounter risk and face, we come up short. It is imperative that we acknowledge such service in protecting and defending our freedoms and our democratic values which define our way of life. America would not be considered the greatest country in the world if we did not have these great people defending it. 


Every veteran makes the ultimate commitment to the pinnacle of patriotism and courage.


Thank you, each and every one of you, for your years of service. The sacrifices you have made for our country, on and off the battlefield, all of which are immeasurable. America is forever blessed for the presence of our veterans, who believe liberty is always worth fighting for. Men and women who believe in duty, honor and country will always be an inspiration. Your service makes the world a better place, keeps our nation a strong beacon of hope in freedom and democracy. 


Thanks to all of you, who put on the uniform expecting nothing in return. The selfless act of serving our country deserves the highest level of respect and gratitude we have to offer. What is there to say other than that we are truly grateful! It is men and women like you that make all of us proud to be Americans.



Credit: The Huffington Post


Monday, October 30, 2017

8 Ways to Express Appreciation on Veterans Day

Veterans Day is an important day for showing appreciation to members of our military, past and present. If you're looking for an appropriate way to honor a veteran in your life, or would like to contribute in a way that's meaningful for veterans everywhere, here's a list of suggestions to start you off.

1. Show Up
Attend a Veterans Day event in your area -- not just a picnic with friends but an honest-to-goodness parade or service for veterans. Roy Rogers said, "We can't all be heroes; someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by." Veterans Day is a great opportunity to do just that.

2. Donate
There are a plethora of wonderful organizations who offer all manner of support, services and appreciation for our service members. To get a few ideas for donations, you can check out this page.

3. Fly a flag - correctly
Veterans Day is a great opportunity to fly the flag! Just make sure you're observing the proper rules for display. Not sure exactly what those are? Check out Military.com's guide to the flag.

4. Ask someone about their service
It seems like we all know someone who has served and Veterans Day is a great time to ask them about their service. Some questions to get started are: What did you do in the military? How long did you serve? What was your favorite moment in all your time in the service? Did anyone else in your family serve? Why did you choose to go into the service branch you did? Do not ask if they've killed anyone and should your veteran be a combat vet who is either unwilling to share or plainly states what they went through, be supportive without being intrusive. Sometimes you don't have to say anything, just listen and give them your full attention.

5. Write
If you know a veteran, write a simple postcard or e-card that recognizes them on Veterans Day. If you don't know a veteran, look up the closest military installation and send one there. Small acts of recognizing someone's service, even anonymously, are appreciated.

6. Don't Confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day
Veterans Day is a time to thank those who are serving or have served and are still with us. Memorial Day is to reflect and remember those who lost their lives in service to their country. Confusing the two or combining the two diminishes the importance of both.

7. Visit a VA Hospital
Find out what the policies are at your nearest VA hospital for interacting with patients or volunteering, and spend the day with a veteran. Many VA facilities will have events on Veterans Day or a special lunch you can help prepare. Even if you never interact with a veteran, helping at a facility is a way to give back.

8. Get Outdoors with a Veteran
Invite a veteran or a military family to explore a national park -- admission is free for all visitors on Veterans Day. Being outside helps improve physical and mental health, boosts emotional well-being, and is a great way to celebrate the day with a veteran.


We thank Military.com for this article.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Cedar Valley Family STEM Festival

Families are invited to attend the Cedar Valley Family STEM Festival on Tuesday, November 7 from 4:00 to 7:30 PM at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo. The festival is free and open to the public.

The goals of the festival are to promote, inspire and engage youth in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities and to introduce children and parents to STEM careers.

Organizations will present exhibits and hands-on activities for kids, pre-K through 12 and their families. Attendees can drive robots, conduct amazing science experiments, and much more! In addition, the festival showcases STEM programs in local schools and offers interactive specialty shows throughout the evening.


The Cedar Valley Family STEM Festival is a community-wide partnership led by the Northeast Region of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council at the University of Northern Iowa, Waterloo Community Schools, Cedar Falls Community School District, Cedar Valley Catholic Schools, Central Rivers AEA, Black Hawk County Extension and Outreach, Hawkeye Community College, University of Northern Iowa, John Deere, Grout Museum District, Society of Women Engineers-Cedar Valley, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Volunteer Center of the Cedar Valley. To learn more, visit our website at neiowastem.com.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Make A Difference Day

On one day each year, we want to inspire the nation to make a difference. Make A Difference Day, October 28, is one of the largest annual single-days of service nationwide. No matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone has the power to do something that improves the life of another. Whether it’s starting a project that helps one person, or working on one that benefits a whole community, every contribution makes a difference. Volunteers will unite with a common mission — to improve the lives of others in its 25th year. 


Of course, the VCCV will assist all volunteers, from one person to a group of volunteers, in finding appropriate matches with area non-profits. Visit www.vccv.org to learn about these opportunities. For more information regarding Make A Difference Day opportunities, call 319-272-2087 or email information@vccv.org.





Monday, October 9, 2017

Making Well-Intentioned Donations: Avoid The 'Second Disaster”

I need to make a statement. I want to say it as kindly and gently as possible, but this message really needs to get out there. It’s important. Please read this with as much understanding as you can, because it is meant with care and recognition.

It is brilliantly apparent that people are thinking about Texas and Florida and want to help figure this thing out. People are doing anything they can, and that has brought profound joy to those in need. Texans have received love, encouragement, and offers of assistance from all around the world which shows us the true beauty that can still be found. People can be astoundingly generous and loving when they want to be!

Having said that, it’s time to share the hard truth. Take a step back and consider what these people really need right now. Some of the items that are being sent are the wrong donations. 

Right now, and in the weeks to follow, a second disaster is occurring in the Houston area. Thousands of tons of donated items are arriving in Texas. According to Houston resident Angela Griffin much of this consists of items such as Christmas sweaters, heavy winter coats, lingerie, stained undergarments, and prom dresses. These well intended donations end up in huge piles and hinder the relief efforts. Texans do not need coats and sweaters in Houston right now – they need fans and bug spray. It’s 90 degrees and 99% humidity. Nobody needs lingerie right now as they shovel mud, scrub walls, and sort through their homes filled with beloved items that are now refuse. Rather than used undergarments, consider fresh, new underwear. They are a luxury.

If the items that donors have are all they have to give, consider selling them and donating the proceeds. No cash donation is too small. Cash is what is truly needed. There are many ongoing expenses related to recovery. Gift cards are also a great option.

What is the Second Disaster? The flood of unwanted donations, despite repeated requests for cash. Too much of the clothing ends up in piles that take up much needed space in a shelter or disaster area. Much, if not most, will be bailed and moved to already overflowing land-fills or as was the case with Hurricane Katrina sent off to another area or even sent off to sea. 

There will be a time for clothing and household donations but it will be way down the road.

Disaster response worker Rebecca Gustafson says that most people want to donate something that is theirs: "Money sometimes doesn't feel personal enough for people. They don't feel enough of their heart and soul is in that donation, that check that they would send. The reality is, it's one of the most compassionate things that people can do."

According to FEMA here’s what is needed:

Cash is the most efficient method of donating. Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. 

Donate through a trusted organization. At the national level, many voluntary-, faith- and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors. In addition to the national members, each state has its own list of voluntary organizations active in disasters. If you’d like to donate or volunteer to assist those affected by disaster, these organizations are the best place to start.

Affiliate with existing non-profit organizations before coming to the disaster area. Do not self-deploy. Immediately following a disaster, a community can become easily overwhelmed by the amount of generous people who want to help. Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained to respond in the most effective way.

Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster - especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.
 
People are generous. Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Gulf States can use all the good intentions we can muster. Just think carefully before sharing anything more than cash at this time.





Monday, October 2, 2017

The Economic Impact of Volunteers

Volunteers make an enormous impact on the health and well-being of communities. Consider all of the ways that volunteers make a difference in day-to-day life:
  • Volunteers help to keep our neighborhoods, streets, parks, rivers, green spaces, and water clean and safe for everyone.
  • Volunteers deliver critical services—from serving as volunteer firefighters or participating in search and rescue, to delivering meals to home-bound seniors or homeless youth, to manning the phone lines at domestic violence and sexual assault centers.
  • Volunteers tutor, teach, mentor, coach, and support young people with everything from reading to dealing with personal crises to football and soccer tourneys.
  • Volunteers walk dogs, pet cats, clean cages, help with adoptions and feedings, and contribute veterinary expertise to organizations like animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers.
  • Volunteers educate the public on health and safety; doctors and nurses donate time and medical knowledge to free clinics and natural/civil disaster areas globally.
  • Volunteers take tickets at performing arts events, lead tours at museums and historical societies, and ensure that arts and cultural festivals—from small-scale gatherings to massive multi-stage concerts—run smoothly.
  • Volunteers build houses and schools, dig wells, and repair public services around the world.


Statistically speaking…

What if… 

Another way to measure the impact of volunteers is to take a look at statistics like hours served and the economic value of volunteer time.
The Value of Volunteer Time, which is updated annually, is made available by Independent Sector. The current Independent Sector rate is $24.41 per hour (2016). According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63 million Americans gave 8 billion hours of volunteer service worth $194 billion in 2015.

Volunteers are critical partners of and participants throughout the world. Whether actively giving their time through formal organizations, or taking part in what is sometimes called "informal volunteering" where citizens voluntarily participate in community activities or provide personal care for family, friends, neighbors, or even strangers as part of accepted cultural norms of giving and reciprocity.

Volunteers have 27% higher odds of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers, possibly due to developing new skills and expanding personal networks. Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Nearly 80% of volunteers donated to charity, compared to 40 percent of non-volunteers. Overall, half of all Americans donated at least $25 to charity in 2015. Generation X had the highest volunteer rate of all age groups at 30%, but the Silent Generation (75 and older) had the highest median hours among volunteer at 100. 1 in 5 Millennials volunteered in 2015. Over the past 14 years, Americans volunteered 104.9 billion hours, estimated to be worth $2.1 trillion. (CNCS)

Finally, here's a remarkable way of looking at the impact of volunteers. Consider if one day, all volunteers failed to show up? What would our cities, towns, state parks, hospitals, schools, places of worship, and libraries look like? What basic needs would go unmet? What opportunities to grow as a society would be lost? The fact is you likely cross paths with a volunteer at least once if not several times a day, no matter where you are in the world.


The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley works to promote and support effective volunteerism and to serve as the resource and coordination center for volunteers and community partnerships. To secure volunteer opportunities call (319) 272-2087, email information@vccv.org or visit www.vccv.org