Friday, May 19, 2017

Baby Boomers Offer Large Numbers of Volunteers

Baby Boomers are members of a diverse group born between 1946 and 1964. Some still cope with teenagers at home, others pay university tuition fees, some care for aging parents while still others enjoy their grandchildren. Some baby boomers work full-time, some part-time, while others contemplate retirement or are already retired. Their interests and aspirations are as diverse as they are. They are always looking for new experiences, challenges and how to make a difference. Baby boomers want to stay active in mind and body, make connections and continue to learn.

Because of their sheer numbers, baby boomers influence and redefine every stage of their lives. Volunteering will be no different.

Research indicates four main reasons why baby boomers volunteer. They want to:
Support a cause that they believe in.
Make a contribution to society.
Share their skills.
Do something meaningful with their friends and colleagues.

More importantly, baby boomers want to volunteer on their own terms. Consider some of the challenges that baby boomers face:

They don’t have enough time.
Theirs is known as a sandwich generation – caring for children and aging parents simultaneously leaves less free time.

They don’t have time during traditional work hours.
Many baby boomers work full-time and many work past the traditional retirement age of 65. Unless their employers have a corporate volunteering program, these volunteers can’t always be available when you need them.

They don’t identify with traditional images of volunteers.
The clich├ęd image of a kindly white-haired volunteer clashes with the way baby boomers see themselves – more youthful and dynamic than their parents.

They don’t want to do routine or menial volunteer tasks.
With less free time, many of today’s volunteers expect challenging and meaningful work that reflects their skills and experience.

Short term (episodic) or a regular commitment?
Volunteering doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Between work, children, aging parents, homes, hobbies, friends, appointments, and other commitments, you may not think you have much time left over. But your involvement can be as much-or as little time as you have.
You can volunteer sporadically, to help out at a special event, or on an on-going basis, for one day a week or a few days a year.
If you go away on holidays, your volunteer work can be put on hold or shared with another volunteer.

Front line help or behind-the-scenes support?
You can join your local community clean-up or lead the development the funding proposal.

Volunteering from home or out in the community?
Virtual volunteering can be done from home through Internet sites that link volunteers with recipients. You could connect to kids who need homework help or people who need a life coach.

Whatever you choose, be realistic about your commitment
Organizations can accommodate your interests and your time frame, no matter how little or how much you can do– but they do need you to show up when you say you will. The people they serve count on you.

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley has numerous current volunteer opportunities available with 159 local non-profit agencies. To secure volunteer opportunities call the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at 272-2087 or email Volunteer opportunities may also be accessed at

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Benefits of Volunteerism in College

Many college freshmen enter college with some volunteer experience. Some needed to complete a set number of volunteer hours to graduate high school. Other students pursued community service opportunities to make their college applications stand out. And some simply felt a desire to give back, adding volunteer service to their hectic high school schedules. Once those college freshmen start their first year on campus, academic and social activities may take the place of those volunteer hours, and draw attention away from unpaid work in the community. Consider the case for volunteerism in college, as there may be some benefits to community service that haven’t yet been considered when configuring those schedules.
Check out the benefits of volunteerism in college below for even more reasons to volunteer time, because not only will the communities be made better, but students may be doing themselves a favor as well.
Boost Your Resume
Lots of high school students have volunteerism on their college resumes. Fewer college students are able to boast volunteer experience on the resumes they’ll be using to apply for jobs post-graduation. If students are able to fit the time in, even if it’s alongside a part-time, paying job, it could be worth their while to pursue a volunteer position. Employers like seeing that students volunteer their time, and are able to manage their time well enough to take on an unpaid position. Volunteerism also suggests that students are a team player, a quality many employers will look for in potential hires. Many companies also lead a number of annual volunteer projects for their staff, so if a student is active in community service and applying to work for such an organization they should play up that experience. Students who look interested in the company’s mission get an advantage over other applicants.
Volunteer experience may also boost financial aid packages. There are a great number of scholarships and grants out there that list community service as a prerequisite. If students dedicate some time each week to volunteer work, they could be giving their financial aid profile a boost as well. Once students start volunteering, they’ll see how easy it is to continue doing so, whether they’re fulfilling the requirements of a scholarship or looking to pad their resume.
Build a Network
Volunteer positions are a great way to meet people, especially if students volunteer in an area that could be of use to them post-graduation. Interested in education? Try volunteer tutoring. The program coordinators may be willing to support students when they’re ready to apply for paying jobs after graduation, or even direct students to job opportunities they may not have heard about otherwise. Interesting in nursing or health care? Perhaps there is a free clinic near campus that offers volunteer positions. The contacts students make in these kinds of positions will be invaluable, and could be a good source for them long after they find a job. Aside from a professional network, volunteerism can also help them build social networks. Students will not only be able to find compatible people who share their interests, but people from different walks of life as them, as well.
Grow as a Person
Whether it’s a somewhat selfish reason to volunteer or not, volunteerism makes one feel good. The work students do will be rewarding and beneficial to sections of the population and areas of the community that need volunteers to thrive. In a volunteer situation, one person can make a real difference, and they’ll get that feeling once they start.
Volunteering can also help students build on their existing skill sets. If they’re relatively shy and want to become more outgoing, find a position that will build communication skills. If they’re not sure about a particular field of study or have interests in several potential majors, try volunteer positions related to those areas. Even if students do something completely different with their life, they’ll now be able to boast experience in a variety of different fields. If one is not a good organizer or has some trouble procrastinating when it comes to work and academics, try a volunteer opportunity that involves some responsibility. Students will be surprised how they’ll improve in those areas once they see that a person or organization is relying on them.

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley represents 159 nonprofit agencies with numerous volunteer opportunities. Call or visit the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at 319-272-2087, or for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities in the Cedar Valley.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Benefits of Volunteerism in High School

Summer is the perfect time to volunteer or establish a long-term relationship with an area nonprofit. All high school students can benefit from getting involved throughout their years in high school as opposed to waiting to pad their college applications in their senior year. May is the ideal month to line up volunteer relationships. Learn more about the how’s and why’s of volunteering throughout high school.

Benefits of Volunteerism in High School
Those four years in high school are the perfect time to volunteer. Although it may seem difficult to find the time to volunteer toward a cause that offers no (monetary) payment in return, the benefits drawn from the experience may end up being worth more than what students make working that part-time job. Whether a freshman or senior, it’s never too late to look into volunteering. If you’d like to use your community service experience as leverage on a college application, the sooner the better! Here are some benefits of volunteerism in high school to assist students in considering the good things about volunteering that may not have been considered.

Impress Admissions Officials
There are a lot of high school students applying to college with impressive academic records. The GPAs and standardized test scores start to matter less especially when students are applying to the more selective schools that include cut-offs when it comes to their admissions requirements. Students are then up against thousands of applicants with the same academic credentials. How do students stand out? What youth choose to do outside of the classroom matters, whether it’s playing sports, working a part-time job, or volunteering their time in their community.
Volunteerism is a great way to show admissions officials that students not only care about the community, but are able to manage their time well enough to balance volunteering with other commitments. This doesn’t mean applicants should volunteer all of the time, or spread oneself thin by volunteering for several different organizations. A sustained commitment to a cause throughout high school or a volunteer position that has been maintained for a longer period of time will look impressive to admission officials.
Get Involved Outside of School
Getting involved in some volunteer work may introduce students to people they wouldn’t have otherwise met. Lots of high school students focus on extracurricular activities related to their schools – sports, music, and after-school clubs make time management an art. There’s a lot of value in getting involved outside of your school. The more people one meets, especially while doing something worthwhile like volunteering, the more contacts students will have when they’re ready to move on from high school and apply to colleges, internships, and even jobs after you graduate from a university. If as a high school student, they already know their proposed field of study in college, they may try finding volunteer opportunities in those areas. There’s no reason volunteer experience shouldn’t help in future endeavors.
Earn Academic Credit and Scholarships
Some high schools, especially those with career-based curriculums or religious affiliations require that students fulfill a certain number of volunteer hours in order to graduate. Others reward students for choosing to do some volunteer work on their own with academic credit. If the school offers service-learning as a part of the curriculum, students could be eligible for some academic or extra credit if you volunteer your time or get involved with a community service project.

Community service scholarships are one of the more common scholarship categories available. Those awards are not reserved for college students. In fact, there are more community service scholarships available to high school students looking for funding to help pay for that first year on campus. If a student has a history of volunteerism, make sure to consider that in your scholarship search and scholarship application process. Admissions officials aren’t the only people you can impress with that kind of experience. Scholarship administrators like community service records as well.

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley is a one stop shop for volunteerism and service-learning. The VCCV represents 159 nonprofit agencies with numerous volunteer opportunities, In addition the VCCV offers service-learning in area schools, teaching a hands on approach to volunteering. Students with an interest in volunteering should call (319) 272-2087, email, or visit to get involved.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Families and Children as Volunteers

Many volunteer jobs are perfect for families with children. Decide whether you're interested in a onetime project like collecting children's books and donating them to a hospital, or consider a longer-term commitment such as serving dinner at a homeless shelter once a month.

An easy way to find out about volunteer opportunities in the Cedar Valley is to call the VCCV and describe your location, interests, and ages of your children. The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley has a database to match you with an appropriate volunteer project. If you've decided on an ongoing volunteer job, talk to the agency's volunteer coordinator about training and orientation. Make a visit before making a commitment, and trust your instincts about whether you think it will be a comfortable environment for you and your children.

Once you've decided on a project, explain to your children exactly what to expect. Be enthusiastic about what you're doing and explain why the job is important. Answer your child's questions about the work and the people you'll be interacting with.

Above all, have fun. You might consider teaming up with another family, inviting one of your child's friends to help out, or stopping for a picnic in the park or ice cream on the way home to discuss your experience. What initially may seem like another task on your to-do list can become a wonderful bonding moment within your family.

10 Ways Kids Can Help:
  1. Donate food to a food pantry. Have your child pick out one item each time you go to the store. When you get a bagful, take it to a local food pantry.
  2. Walk to fight disease. Many organizations use walks to increase awareness and raise funds. Kids 5 and up can walk a few miles, and you can push little ones in a stroller.
  3. Put together activity boxes. If your child is a preschooler, decorate shoe boxes and fill them with a deck of cards, small games, puzzles, and books for kids at the local hospital.
  4. Visit a nursing home. Your family can be matched with one person to call on regularly.
  5. Clean up. Pick up litter at a local park or while you take a walk in the neighborhood. (Wear gloves and supervise your children closely.)
  6. Befriend someone with a disability. Call a residential center who meets the needs of people with disabilities and ask to be matched with someone whom you can include in family events, holiday activities, and outings. The center will select someone who can interact well with children.
  7. Deliver meals. You and your child can bring both hot food and companionship to homebound people through a local charity food service.
  8. Offer a lift. Take your kids along to drive elderly people to their medical appointments, or take nursing-home residents or isolated seniors to the grocery store or to visit friends.
  9. Share story time. Read your child's favorite books to children in the hospital. Your child can sit next to you and turn the pages.
  10. Be kind to animals. Volunteer to care for dogs or cats that need love and attention.

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley represents 159 nonprofit agencies with numerous volunteer opportunities. Call or visit the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at 319-272-2087, or for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities in the Cedar Valley.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

98 ways to thank and support your volunteers

Here are 98 different ways to thank and support your volunteers.
  1. Create a climate in which volunteers can feel motivated
  2. Say ‘thank you’ often, and mean it
  3. Match the volunteer’s desires with the organization’s needs
  4. Send birthday cards. Send a card at Christmas  
  5. Provide a clear role description for every volunteer
  6. Make sure new volunteers are welcomed warmly
  7. Highlight the impact that the volunteer contribution is having on the organization
  8. Show an interest in volunteers’ personal interests and their outside life
  9. Tell volunteers they have done a good job
  10. Give volunteers a real voice within the organization
  11. Set up a volunteer support group
  12. Provide meaningful and enjoyable work.
  13. Always have work for your volunteers to do and never waste their time
  14. Send ‘thank you’ notes and letters when appropriate
  15. Smile when you see them!
  16. Say something positive about their personal qualities
  17. Involve volunteers in decision-making processes
  18. Give a certificate to commemorate anniversaries of involvement
  19. Develop a volunteer policy
  20. Allow volunteers the opportunity to debrief, especially if they work in stressful situations
  21. Let volunteers put their names to something they have helped to produce or to make happen
  22. Differentiate clearly between the roles of paid staff, trainees and volunteers
  23. Have a volunteer comments box and consider any suggestions carefully
  24. Make sure the volunteer coordinator is easily accessible and has an ‘open door’ policy
  25. Provide insurance cover
  26. Supervise volunteers’ work
  27. Have a vision for volunteer involvement in your organization
  28. Do not impose new policies and procedures without volunteers’ inputs
  29. Ask volunteers themselves how the organization can show it cares
  30. Permit volunteers to attend seminars, conferences and workshops from time to time
  31. Give volunteers a proper induction
  32. Celebrate the year’s work together
  33. Offer to write volunteers letters of reference
  34. Accept that different volunteers are able to offer different levels of involvement
  35. Accept that an individual volunteer’s ability to commit may change over time
  36. Ask volunteers’ opinions when developing new policies and strategies
  37. Make sure the director (especially in large organizations) shows her/his personal appreciation of the volunteers’ work
  38. Pass on any positive comments about volunteers from clients to the volunteers themselves
  39. Provide the opportunity for ‘leave of absence’
  40. Add volunteers to memo and e-mail distribution lists
  41. Set solid goals for volunteers and keep communicating them
  42. Provide car or bike parking for volunteers
  43. Give the volunteer a title which reflects the work they do (not just ‘volunteer’)
  44. Consider providing, or paying for, child care for volunteers who are parents
  45. Inform the local press about the excellent work of your volunteers
  46. Undertake individual supervision and support sessions
  47. Always be courteous
  48. Maintain regular contact with volunteers, even if they work ‘off-site’ or at odd hours
  49. Allow volunteers to ‘get out’ without feeling guilty
  50. Keep volunteers informed of changes in structure and personnel
  51. Provide adequate clothing and name badges if appropriate
  52. Use quotes from volunteers in leaflets and annual reports
  53. Devote resources (time and money) to volunteer support
  54. Count up how many hours volunteers contribute and publicise this
  55. Ensure all paid staff and trainees know how to work effectively with volunteers
  56. Provide accredited training
  57. Hang a volunteer photo board in a prominent position
  58. Give volunteers the opportunity to evaluate their own performance and role
  59. Do not overwhelm volunteers
  60. Build volunteers’ self-esteem by giving them a sense of ownership of their work
  61. Always be appreciative of volunteers’ contributions
  62. Ensure volunteers have adequate space and equipment to do their work
  63. Provide excellent training and coaching
  64. Recognize that volunteers play a unique role
  65. Have an annual volunteer award ceremony
  66. Focus on the problem, if there is one, not the personality of the volunteer
  67. Create two-way communication processes
  68. Have occasional lunches, dinners, barbecues, picnics, etc
  69. Create a volunteer notice board
  70. Set up a volunteers forum
  71. Allow volunteers to get involved in solving problems
  72. Pay for an eye test if they sit in front of a computer all day
  73. Review the progress of volunteers on a regular basis
  74. Reimburse out-of-pocket expenses
  75. Conduct an exit interview when a volunteer leaves
  76. Have a ‘volunteer voice’ section in your newsletter
  77. Be honest at all times
  78. Provide constructive appraisal
  79. Make volunteers feel good about themselves
  80. Don’t treat volunteers as ‘second class citizens’
  81. Ensure confidentiality for your volunteers
  82. Present an occasional inexpensive gift
  83. Provide volunteers with a ‘rights and responsibilities’ charter
  84. Don’t bully them into doing tasks which they have made clear they don’t want to do
  85. Give free membership to your organization
  86. Ensure you have adequate support skills yourself
  87. Ask why volunteers are leaving or have left
  88. Throw a volunteers party
  89. Use surveys as a way of eliciting your volunteers’ views
  90. Provide free refreshments during coffee and tea breaks
  91. Celebrate United Nations International Volunteer Day (5 December each year)
  92. Suggest sources of help and support for personal problems
  93. Allow volunteers to air legitimate grievances and make sure they are dealt with swiftly
  94. Send a card or flowers if volunteers are ill or bereaved
  95. Encourage them to sit on committees and attend meetings
  96. Ensure a safe and healthy working environment
  97. Allow volunteers to take on more challenging responsibilities
  98. Make sure that every volunteer has equal access to support

For additional details on volunteer recognition, contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at (319) 272-2087,, or visit

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mayors’ Volunteer and Top Teen Awards 2017

The 39th Annual Mayors’ Volunteer Awards and 19th Annual Mayors’ Top Teen Awards and Mother Moon Service Scholarships were presented by the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley on Tuesday, April 11 at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center.

The Mayors’ Volunteer Awards program, which recognizes outstanding volunteers in the Cedar Valley, included a luncheon with 130 attendees. Award categories this year included the Volunteer Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding volunteers regardless of age or years of service. The Outstanding Emerging Volunteer Award, which was open to those age 19-35. And the Lifetime Achievement Award that was open to any nominee with 20+ years of volunteerism in the Cedar Valley. Award criteria included demonstrating excellence in volunteerism in the Cedar Valley and a commitment to serving the community.

23 nominees received certificates from Mayor Jim Brown (Cedar Falls), Mayor Doug Faas (Evansdale), and Mayor Quentin Hart (Waterloo) and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber Ambassadors.

The 2017 nominees were: Diane Alcott, nominated by West Waterloo High School; Susan Card, nominated by Western Home Communities; Paula Czarnetski, nominated by Cedar Valley Hospice; Rita Durchenwald, nominated by Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare; Sharon Fasse, nominated by Lifeserve Blood Center; Genna Flaherty, nominated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Iowa; Pam Flanders, nominated by Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging; Mary Lou Garms, nominated by Allen Hospital; Jackie Glassel, nominated by  Salvation Army; Robert Green, nominated by Jeffery Dow; Gene Haack, nominated by Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging; Sydney Neuzil, nominated by Department of Human Services, Gabriela Petry, nominated by Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare; Bill Quibell, nominated by Michelle Temeyer; Roger Reiter, nominated by ISU Extension and Outreach Black Hawk County; Berenis Sanchez, nominated by Allen Hospital; Steve Schmitt, nominated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Iowa; Reggie Schmitt, nominated by Northeast Iowa Food Bank; Gary Steen, nominated by Department of Human Services; Gene Theis, nominated by Cedar Falls Tourism & Visitor Bureau and Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity; Patty Tometich, nominated by Care Initiatives Hospice; Ernie Wenger, nominated by West High School; Rachelle Yousefi, nominated by PET PALS.  

Congratulations to the 2017 Mayors' Volunteer Award Winners!
Bill Quibell, nominated by Michelle Temeyer
Susan Card, nominated by Western Home Communities
Rob Green, nominated by Jeff Dow
Gene Theis, nominated by Cedar Falls Visitor Center and Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity 
Reggie Schmitt, nominated by Northeast Iowa Food Bank
Rita Durchenwald, nominated by Wheaton Iowa/Franciscan Healthcare
Genna Flaherty, nominated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Iowa
Gabriela Petry, nominated by Wheaton Iowa/Franciscan Healthcare
Berenis Sanchez, nominated UnityPoint Health - Waterloo/Allen Hospital
Ernie Wenger, nominated by West Waterloo High School
Mary Lou Garms, nominated by UnityPoint Health - Waterloo/Allen Hospital
Gene Haack, nominated by Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging

The Mayors’ Top Teen Awards and Mother Moon Service Scholarships were presented by the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley on Tuesday evening. The awards program, which recognizes outstanding youth volunteers in the Cedar Valley, included an evening reception for teens, their parents and friends. Award criteria included demonstrating excellence in volunteerism in the Cedar Valley and a setting a good example as a role model for others. Teens ages 13-18 are eligible for the award.

25 nominees received certificates from Mayors Jim Brown (Cedar Falls), Mayor Doug Faas (Evansdale), and Mayor Quentin Hart (Waterloo). In addition, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa awarded Mother Moon Service Scholarships to eight students.

Sponsors of the event included the cities of Cedar Falls, Dunkerton, Evansdale, Gilbertville, Hudson, La Porte City, Raymond, and Waterloo; Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa; R.J. McElroy Trust; and Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley.

This year’s honorees are as follows:
Top Row, Left to Right:
Dalton Burch, Jack Schaefer, Dawson Ellingson, Joshua Borwik, Ryan Gilstrap, Riley Henry, Faith Magee

Middle Row, Left to Right:
Saima Perveen, Kacey Fettkether, Brianna Zoll, Grace Jorgensen, Katelyn Pint, Emma Yoder, Anna Hepworth

Front Row, Left to Right:
Ardis White, Hana Malik, Haley Clark, Tyler Hayes, Abby Laures, Wesley Hanson, Hunter Peterson, Maria Geisler

Not pictured:
Aastha Chandra, Zach Nie, Caroline Strauel

Thanks to all our nominees for their commitment to volunteering!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Global Youth Service Day, April 21 - 23

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley and Youth Action Council will lead young people on Global Youth Service Day, an annual campaign that celebrates and mobilizes the millions of children and youth who improve their communities each day of the year through service and service-learning. Established in 1988, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) is the largest service event in the world, and the only day of service dedicated to youth. This year GYSD will be on April 21 - 23.

Many communities use Global Youth Service Day as a component of youth service. “Needs in our community are particularly great right now. Addressing the challenge of mobilizing youth and resources to solve community problems will take a sustained effort, and we hope many who are serving on April 21 - 23 will make an ongoing commitment to serve throughout the year,” said Jean Seeland, Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley Youth Program Coordinator.

Each year, millions of youth around the world work together with schools, youth organizations, nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations, volunteer and national service programs, government agencies, faith communities, and other individuals to address critical issues and change their communities on Global Youth Service Day.

Global Youth Service Day is held during National Volunteer Week, April 21 – 23. Through programs such as this, youth volunteers are recognized for the tremendous impact they are making on our country's most critical challenges year-round. 

Locally, Global Youth Service Day will be celebrated on April 21. Students are invited to participate from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 505 Franklin, Waterloo. Participants, from kindergarten through 5th grade, will complete projects that will be donated to community agencies. In addition, middle and high school age students from the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley’s Youth Action Council will meet at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank to volunteer from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

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.

Please contact Jean Seeland at the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley to express interest in participating or to secure additional opportunities by calling 319-272-2087 or emailing Volunteer opportunities may also be accessed at