Archive for June, 2012

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Soup from the Heart (by Alice Edwards)

June 21, 2012

ImageOne of my favorite and most memorable volunteer experiences was volunteering for a soup kitchen in Orange County. The soup kitchen was run out of a mobile trailer and the “pantry” was a recycled metal shipping crate. The volunteers were friendly and welcoming and really made me feel part of the group – wanted and appreciated – which is what kept me coming back to volunteer several times each month.

At the soup kitchen, we served donated salad, pies, and pastries as well as fresh soup that we made from scratch each week. The soup was magical – somehow, from all the random canned goods and nearly expired fresh vegetables and donated meat, the main soup cook consistently created a tasty and filling soup.  It was so good that I would even go back for seconds after we finished serving the crowd who came to eat.

While I think friendliness of the serving staff is what really impacted me the most, there was a secondary benefit to my service at that soup kitchen.  Before I volunteered there, I was never good at making soup, but some of the kitchen’s magic must have rubbed off on me and, to this day, I can make a tasty soup from whatever random items I have around!

If you would like to help the homeless and hungry of southern Nevada, please visit http://bit.ly/NxFoqa for more volunteer opportunities.

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An Impactful Earache (by AmeriCorps member Mayra Duran)

June 19, 2012

MLK Day 2012 was an extraordinary day! I remember reading an email regarding a service project for the AmeriCorps members. Like always, I was ready to volunteer. However, I wasn’t expecting to be involved in a web of resources. The day was packed with chores and eager volunteers. Strangers became friends and smiles were simply contagious. I was sworn into a Project Leader position and I was clueless on what exactly to do; so I did what others would do in my situation, I faked it till I made it! Then, natural leadership skills kicked into gear. I had a blast meeting different members. During orientation, everyone was informed on all the services offered by or through City Impact. That particular information must have dodged my memory bank.

A couple of weeks ago, I was stationed at the Career Fair at the College of Southern Nevada West Charleston Campus, with my fellow member, Jon Park. We spoke on a million topics and one of those topics happened to be dental referrals. He casually brought up the City Impact Center and encouraged me to look into it.  I did, but wasn’t able to be seen for the particular need I was requesting. Then, something caught my eye. Their H.O.P.E medical clinic was open to low-income and uninsured residents. Let me just add that I thought I was dying of wisdom tooth pain! Then, my thoughts shifted to being 100% positive it was an earache. Point was, I just couldn’t bear the pain any longer and needed to see a doctor ASAP. I walked into a clinic that brought me back to childhood. I spent my summers in Mexico on my grandparents’ farm. I thought they would bill me later; enough to give me time to pay. I was treated by extremely motivational and happy staff composed of mostly volunteers. I was in so much pain, I was in tears; I just needed help, please! And I received much more than that.

Then the moment of truth came; my bill. I was told the cost for the services performed equaled to $200. However, I was placed in a type of payment plan; it was called “Pay-It-Forward.” My payment was community service; to help others as I was helped. I was asked to write to the clinic within one month of my appointment to share my “good deeds”. I have no concrete words to even begin to describe the feeling that overwhelmed my body.  This was sincere humanitarian work at its best. Funny how I never thought it began with an email. Networking changes lives.  This experience reminds that people never know who they help and how it helps them. Pay-It-Forward is a chain reaction!

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Now Recruiting for AmeriCorps VISTA Positions in southern Nevada

June 11, 2012

Always wonder what it might be like to live in Las Vegas, Nevada?  Known as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city for entertainment, shopping and fine dining.  A growing retirement and family city, Las Vegas is the 28th most populous city in the United States.

Las Vegas is also home to a large nonprofit sector working diligently to improve high school graduation rates, end childhood hunger, save the environment and eradicate poverty. United Way of Southern Nevada is currently recruiting for 14 VISTAs and one VISTA Team Leader to serve 8/6/2012 – 8/9/2013 in the Las Vegas area.

The positions include:

United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center, VISTA Leader

By increasing the capacity of nonprofit organizations, we ensure that these key organizations are able to survive the economic downturn & continue to provide for the clients which rely upon them. AmeriCorps VISTA members will serve in capacity building assignments: building and strengthening the overall capacity of local nonprofit organizations, i.e., resource development capacity & volunteer management capacity. The VISTA Team Leader will support these efforts by providing one-on-one support to VISTA members. This support will be provided via regular site visits, team meetings, trainings and service projects for members. To be eligible to serve the VISTA Team Leader, applicant must have successfully completed at least 1 term of VISTA service.

Arthritis Foundation

The VISTA member will partner with Arthritis Foundation staff to develop Life Improvement exercise classes for low income individuals living in southern Nevada. The member will also research & develop grants to sustain & grow existing programs designed to decrease on the job injury. These programs for employees not only reduce on the job injuries, but keep employees at work & able to perform their job duties. Targeted employees are generally low income, 78% of which are Hispanic, earning $8-$12 an hour. The VISTA member will explore avenues to increase funding for needy families affected by Juvenile Arthritis to enable them to attend educational conferences as well as enable children affected by JA to attend medically supervised summer camps. The VISTA member will cultivate community partner relationships to increase in-kind and monetary support for programs to benefit low income populations in southern Nevada. The VISTA member will additionally develop relationships with system partners who currently offer Arthritis Foundation Life Improvement classes to the public at low- or no-cost. The VISTA member will implement these strategies which will increase the organizational capacity of the Foundation.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas (BGCLV) serves an average of 1,000 kids per day, ages 5-18, and has a special focus on children and teens from challenging or disadvantaged circumstances. Members often come from low income/single parent households and face challenging obstacles to succeed. The BGCLV strives to provide positive roles models that can have a meaningful impact on these lives. Volunteers are essential to the organization, in not only becoming role models for members, but also bringing new skills & services that allow them to provide quality programs for the kids benefit and enjoyment. Volunteer involvement, whether individual or corporate, also creates strong relationships with the community that seeks to invest in the future of youth. The VISTA member will be responsible for continuing to develop the capacity of the BGCLV newly established Volunteer Management Program. Duties will include building on the existing program & evaluating the effectiveness/success of its current components. In addition, the VSITA member will work with all agency volunteers to provide ongoing opportunities to serve Club members and the organization. The VISTA member will work closely with BGCLV staff to identify volunteer needs and professional development training for staff on best practices when working with volunteers.

Child Focus @ St. Jude’s Ranch for Children

Within the foster care community there exists the primary need to strengthen families. The Child Focus program connects separated siblings in foster care, providing opportunities for them to heal, grown and maintain their sibling bond during a very difficult chapter in their life. The experience of the individual placed at the Child Focus office would include helping families (primarily children & youth in foster care) strengthen their family bonds. Strengthening families is a key tenant in helping families to break the cycle of abuse & neglect. The VISTA member would work with staff from St. Jude’s Ranch for Children’s Child Focus program to balance capacity building projects in three program areas: Cyber Siblings, Mentoring and Academic Success. The VISTA member would help siblings communicate with one another without direct contact via cell phones and computers as part of the Cyber Sibling Program. In the event a brother or sister moves from their current foster home, they would be able to continue communicating via technology at their new placement. The VISTA member would recruit potential volunteer cyber mentors to support the Cyber Sibling program. Additionally, the VISTA would recruit volunteer academic mentors to help youth involved in the program graduate high school. The VISTA member would help St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, Child Focus, work towards the goal of breaking the cycle of abuse and create healthy, independent & family oriented individuals as they leave the foster care system. The capacity building that the VISTA member will provide will help meet this need in southern Nevada.

Clark County School District

The VISTA member will outreach to new & existing partners in the community to identify opportunities for youth to volunteer as well as to identify opportunities for community members to volunteer in activities which promote education and student success. The VISTA will develop key talking points & guidelines for conversations, coordinate trainings, place volunteers in school settings as well as develop & maintain a database of volunteer opportunities and completed activities. The VISTA will develop systems to ensure the sustainability of service initiatives beyond the VISTA program. In addition, the VISTA will maintain & enhance a social media campaign to bring community-wide awareness to education themed volunteer opportunities. The VISTA will develop volunteer opportunities that enable community members to become involved in school programs that promote economic development in southern Nevada. Volunteers will be trained and placed in school settings that will prove them with successful & engaging experiences and ones that will also enrich the lives of students. The VISTA will help enable more caring adults to be involved in and positively influence student lives with the goal of helping youth achieve success in school as well as graduate from high school.

Goodwill of Southern Nevada

The VISTA opportunity at Goodwill of Southern Nevada has two primary strategic objectives. First, the VISTA member will help Goodwill develop sustainable programs for financial stability (VITA/EITC, Financial Education & Asset Development) to be integrated long-term into the organization’s workforce development mission. Secondly, the VISTA member will help Goodwill secure grants to support these financial stability programs, Goodwill’s VISTA member will support volunteer outreach, recruitment, training & certification as well as provide necessary oversight to ensure volunteer retention. They will also develop & implement volunteer recognition activities. The VISTA member will conduct asset development outreach, identify asset development tools to be utilized by Goodwill’s clients and act as a liaison with United Way of Southern Nevada & the Internal Revenue Service. The member will also provide feedback & evaluate financial stability programs, coordinate VITA & Asset Development site(s). The VISTA will research asset-building services and research & evaluate funding leads, assist in grant-writing and help cultivate relationships with prospective funding sources to diversify funding streams for Goodwill’s financial stability programs. The ideal candidate will be creative, self-starting, highly organized, professional, personable, patient & flexible. Bilingual candidates with prior volunteer experience are desirable. Successful candidates will be able to interact & work with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Nevada Health Centers

NVHC currently has a small but effective volunteer program and are in need of a VISTA member to devote time and energy into making the program robust and sustainable. The VISTA member will be responsible for enhancing training materials, recruiting volunteers and keeping them engaged. The VISTA member will be charged with growing the volunteer program through strategic recruitment, volunteer orientation and monthly volunteer training. The VISTA member will create a team of volunteers who will reach the underserved & poverty-stricken residents of the Las Vegas community to help eliminate health disparities and poverty by referring them to affordable health services. The VISTA member & core volunteers will attend community events included but not limited to health fairs, nonprofit events & various meetings in order to reach people living in poverty who need access to affordable health care services. The VISTA member will work toward the NVHC mission by deepening their impact within the underserved community through health education, health advocacy & referral to health services. The VISTA member will play a vital role in identifying opportunities & partnerships to best educate NVHC target populations, such as those living in poverty, regarding access to affordable health care.

Nevada Partners

The VISTA member will address the need for greater financial stability in Nevada. According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development, 45% of Nevada households are asset poor, or lack the ability to live at poverty level for three months in the absence of income. This presents a significant challenge for the stability of Nevada families, communities and schools. By supporting the establishment of a year round asset development center, the VISTA member will decrease poverty in Nevada by mitigating asset poverty. The VISTA member in partnership with Nevada Partners staff will build organizational capacity and support many aspects of their poverty mitigating programs. In particular, the VISTA member will play a central role in establishing long term sustainable financial stability programs & services. The member will recruit, retain & recognize volunteers for the VITA/EITC (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance/Earned Income Tax Credit) program as well as ensure they receive the training and certification necessary to volunteer with the program. Through the member’s efforts, Nevada Partners anticipates a reduction in financial instability & an increase in its financial stability service array. Currently, Nevada Partners operates a VITA site during tax season. With support from a VISTA member, they would establish a year round asset development center proving free tax services; year round financial literacy education & asset develop programming.

Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth

The AmeriCorps VISTA member will work in partnership with NPHY staff to extend, expand and enhance current multi-pronged outreach & volunteer programs to ensure homeless youth get off the streets. NPHY’s outreach program includes preventative outreach to youth in schools, intervention outreach to youth living on the streets, and training & outreach to community stakeholders. The VISTA will focus on further developing youth-centered outreach program thereby enabling NPHY staff & volunteers to make a real difference in the lives of more homeless youth. The VISTA will coordinate & expand the current in-school preventative & educational outreach program where NPHY volunteers staff information tables at southern Nevada high schools and provide information on Safe Place (a 24/7/365 mobile crisis intervention service assessable to any youth in crisis) and other NPHY services. The VISTA will be responsible for working with school administrators to schedule these events as well as to recruit and coordinate volunteers to staff the tables. The VISTA will also take the lead on a new outreach program with Village of Hope and Whitney Elementary School to establish a “remote outreach center” at Village of Hope, an intensely at-risk, low-income neighborhood with a large population of homeless youth. The VISTA will be responsible for collaborating with Village of Hope & Whitney elementary to develop & execute the project. Once implemented, the VISTA will recruit & coordinate volunteers to staff the outreach center and to canvass the neighborhood to advise residents of NPHY services. The VISTA will also coordinate a lecture program that teaches youth in youth groups, school clubs, recreation centers and more about youth homelessness and challenges young people to volunteer & become an active part of the solution.

Outside Las Vegas Foundation

For many years, Outside Las Vegas Foundation (OLVF) facilitated the development of open space & trails resources. OLVF is now focusing on connecting the community, with an emphasis on children & families in less advantaged communities, to these resources. As a result, OLVF is expanding into several program areas that will need a variety of capacity building & organizational assistance. The OLVF believes that building connections to southern Nevada’s outdoor places contributes to strong community ties, better familial bonds, & increased economic vitality. OLVF provides new opportunities, inspirations & goals for children & families through outdoor experiences either by educational experiences including supplementing curriculum, stewardship & civic engagement events, or by focusing on health & fitness improvement. These experiences directly benefit young people by improving physical & mental health and have been shown to improve scholastic achievements. The cycle of poverty is complex & the OLVF approaches the solution through innovative community & family investment. Their programs compliment others that address housing, food, & basic needs by providing mental & emotional nurturing. The VISTA will coordinate field-trips & other programs are throughout the year, assist with grant writing to secure funds for transportation for future outings for children & families, & provide volunteer event coordination for the programs with the City of Las Vegas. A formal partnership agreement with the National Park Service will assist the OLVF in their efforts to connect more urban community members to public lands through education & environmental outreach. The VISTA will play in important role as outreach strategies are built. The OLVF is working with funding partners to develop capacity to effectively expand communications & outreach efforts. The VISTA will implement the recommended strategies & provide vital investment in building organizational capacity.

Salvation Army

The VISTA member will coordinate all volunteer aspects of The Salvation Army programs & services that assist low-income & homeless people in order to alleviate poverty, obtain or increase income and achieve or retain permanent housing to lead them to lives of self-sufficiency and independence. The VISTA will revise and update current volunteer policies & procedures, serve as a liaison with departments and survey staff to assess their volunteer needs. Additionally, the member will generate appropriate volunteer projects and descriptions, provide appropriate support & training for volunteers, recruit, assign & schedule volunteers to appropriate tasks as well as monitor, support, motivate & recognize their efforts. The VISTA will make presentations to colleges, businesses, and community organizations regarding the volunteer needs and keep up to date on legislation & policy regarding volunteerism. The VISTA will monitor & track volunteer activities and design & implement appropriate systems of recognition. The VISTA will work with staff & volunteers to support the Women’s Auxiliary events, support the Angel Tree toy distribution program and manage all aspects of the Community Garden including ordering supplies, developing grants and recruiting and supervising garden volunteers.

United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center

As part of United Way of Southern Nevada’s (UWSN) national service program, the VISTA member assigned to UWSN’s Volunteer Center will design & implement multi-tiered programs to engage individuals in education-themed volunteer opportunities. The VISTA member will interact with schools, businesses, & nonprofits in the development of these projects. Additionally, the VISTA member will coordinate a high-school volunteer & recognition program in partnership with Clark County School District and area high schools. VISTA member will also assist in building the capacity of UWSN’s Volunteer Center in a variety of ways including nonprofit partner recruitment, volunteer opportunity development, recruitment & recognition of individual, family, group & corporate volunteers. VISTA member will participate in the development, implementation & evaluation of multiple large events including but not limited to Project Homeless Connect, the NALC Food Drive, Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, Make A Difference Day, MLK Day of Service, etc. Successful candidates will have volunteer recruitment experience, strong computer & writing skills, the ability to multi-task and work as part of a team. Organizational, leadership & time management skills are a must.

United Way of Southern Nevada, Immediate Needs

The VISTA member would serve in the United Way of Southern Nevada’s (UWSN) Community Development Dept. providing program management for projects classified as Immediate Needs provision. Among the projects included are Project REACH, a utility assistance program; the Emergency Food & Shelter Program (federal grant fiscally managed by UWSN) and the Immediate Needs grant program. All three of the programs are specifically aimed at assisting homeless, low and moderate income members of the community with the basic needs of food, shelter, rent & utilities through funding of partner organizations in Clark County, NV. The work of the VISTA member would directly impact the lives of southern Nevadans living at or below poverty level, as those who seek assistance with basic needs are those most affected by financial instability, including poverty. Specifically, the VISTA will develop a more effective system of reporting & monitoring grants and communicating this system to partner agencies, including providing technical assistance to Local Recipient Organizations and grantee agencies to ensure effective use of grant awards. The VISTA will implement the new system, which will lead to development of effective reporting results for the benefit of agency marketing and communications. Also, the VISTA will be involved with the UWSN Accreditation process which measures local agencies ability to meet standards of excellence in governance, financial accountability and program delivery which is required of agencies prior to applying for financial assistance through UWSN. By working in partnership with a volunteer committee, the VISTA will consult with applicant agencies, conduct site visits and grant awards of accreditation to successful agencies.

United Way of Southern Nevada, Earn It Keep It Save It

The VISTA member will provide support for volunteer recruitment, training, certification, retention & recognition as well as implement an outreach plan for the Earn It Keep It Save It (EKS), Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs in the Las Vegas Valley. The VISTA member will develop additional asset development tools that the VITA site clients can utilize as well as provide in-kind support of marketing materials, office supplies & equipment for VITA and asset development coordination. Additionally, the VISTA member will maintain relationships with VITA sites and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

WestCare Nevada

The VISTA member will identify resources and links for veterans and their families, including but not limited to behavioral health, housing, employment, transportation, and medical services. The member will work in partnership with staff to develop new initiatives for veterans & military families, identify and build new partnerships, as well as research and develop resources, write grants, etc. The VISTA will provide support to programs that educate the community on specific populations, i.e., veterans, military families, re-entry, and homeless families. The VISTA will represent WestCare at health fairs, Vet fairs and provide community presentations marketing the scope of services provided by WestCare. The VISTA will create training for new staff & volunteers working with special populations.

Living Allowance & Educational Award

AmeriCorps VISTAs in Southern Nevada  will receive a modest living allowance of $1016 each month (before taxes). The Team Leader will receive a living allowance of $1216 each month (before taxes). After the successful completion of a term, VISTAs may be eligible to receive a $5,550 education award.

Questions?

Contact Robin or Jacob at (702) 892-2300.

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Summer Family Friendly Volunteering

June 6, 2012

School is out and summer is upon us. The time is right to get the kids out of the house and spend some time volunteering. Here are a few ways to give back with your family this summer.

19 Kids & Counting
The Shade Tree
Thursday June 28th 8:00am-5:00pm
Ages 10 & up with parent

Count for the women, children and pet residents of The Shade Tree! The Shade Tree needs volunteers to assist with semi-annual inventory. Help us to count and track donation items. Please dress for casually and for comfort. Lunch will be provided.

Bottle Sorting
Clean the World Foundation
Every Wednesday, Thursday & Friday during the summer
9:00am & 12:00pm
Ages 8 and up with parent

Clean the World needs volunteers every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to help sort bottle amenities to recycle and reuse. An orientation will be provided and casual dress with no offensive language and an orientation is required. This opportunities is a perfect summer activity for teens. Families are also encouraged to participate.

Soup & a Smile
Las Vegas Catholic Worker
Two Saturdays a month during the summer
6:00am-8:00am
Ages 5 & up with parent

Brighten the day of an individual in need by serving breakfast with Catholic Worker. Volunteers will serve food to individuals, and have the opportunity to directly interact with the people they are serving.

To find other opportunities, visit United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center.

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The Benefits of Volunteering

June 6, 2012

Perhaps the first and biggest benefit people get from volunteering is the satisfaction of incorporating service into their lives and making a difference in their community and country. The intangible benefits alone—such as pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment—are worthwhile reasons to serve. In addition, when we share our time and talents we:

  • Solve problems
  • Strengthen communities
  • Improve lives
  • Connect to others
  • Transform our own lives

The Corporation of National & Community Service (CNCS) has prepared a report on the Health Benefits of Volunteering. Some of the highlights include benefits like “lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression”.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and volunteer now. To find an opportunity visit United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center.

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The Gist of Going Green (by Shae Hagen)

June 5, 2012

ImageWhat is going green? Recycling plastics and paper? Buying household products that are mindful of toxins? Spending more time connecting with nature and appreciating the great outdoors? While it could be composed of any of these, going green is simply this: a lifestyle. At the annual Green Fest on April 21, 2012 (a day shy of Earth Day), vendors from all walks of the green life came together as a community to share ideas and inspiration on environmental sustainability.

There are few better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than listening to a live band in which every instrument was constructed out of another item: construction buckets as drums, gently used cymbals (cracked, but still noisy), and different plastic parts fused together to make an electric guitar! Other events included a fashion show with stylish recyclables that were trendy and fun, and drawing contests for kids on their visions of a more sustainable world.  Also, I will never look at a garbage can the same way; there were trash bins transformed into beautiful canvases using their once discarded contents (junk turned to art).

The Kid’s Zone consisted of free coloring books from Republic Services on education for the three notable R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) as well as live music, face painting, recyclable collectibles, a picture with Smokey the Bear himself, and free snacks supported by the Local Farmer’s Market and Whole Foods. Having the pleasure to volunteer alongside Whole Foods, I saw the delight of kids obtaining apples, bananas, and organic graham crackers!

Besides entertainment, there was a wealth of information to be found among the vendors. Local Farmer’s Markets set up samples of their organic produce, the water district and Nevada Energy Star provided ways to be conservative, non-profit organizations collaborated to spread awareness, and many organizations who are turning to greener initiatives were found. If you are curious on ways to go green, this event is the perfect opportunity to network, learn, and grow.

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Volunteer Leader Institute, Part II

June 5, 2012

ImageBe the change by being a leader! Volunteer Leader Institute (VLI) empowers individuals to lead service projects for a group, organization, or corporate team. Volunteer Leaders learn relevant leadership skills and theory that will enable them to manage diverse groups of volunteers. 

Upon completion of VLI, individuals will understand how to coordinate the logistics of a project, manage volunteers, track volunteers, and debrief the service experience. This two-hour training is a must for volunteers who want to take their commitment to the next level. All VLI graduates will receive a certificate, and must be willing to serve as a project leader for future United Way of Southern Nevada Volunteer Center days of service, corporate service projects, and other events.

Volunteer Leaders are vital to helping create and facilitate large scale service opportunities in southern Nevada. The skills gained through the Volunteer Leader Institute will empower individuals to lead projects with United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center and other organizations.

The next Volunteer Leader Institute is June 26th from 6-8pm. Make sure to register early as space is limited to 20 participants. To register, click here.