National Volunteer Week

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

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This year, National Volunteer Week is scheduled for April 15 – April 21. Established by President Richard Nixon in 1974, National Volunteer Week has been endorsed by every sitting president since. In support of this effort, the Points of Light Foundation and HandsOn Network joined forces in 2007 to create the country’s largest volunteer management organization. A standardized website protocol, called HandsOn Connect, was created to connect locally-driven Action Centers throughout the United States. Currently, there are 245 centers across America, with nine Action Centers located in the state of Texas alone.

Each Action Center is a resource for area nonprofits, providing a platform that links them to either teams of volunteers at local businesses or individual volunteers, according to their need. To become a HandsOn Partner, an organization must be a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, government agency, neighborhood association, eldercare facility, or public school that accepts volunteers regardless of race, ethnic origin, nationality, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability. Interested? To register, go to the website of the Action Center location closest to you.

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For member companies, the Centers offer volunteer recruitment and volunteer leadership training services. For individual volunteers, the Centers provide a list of volunteer opportunities, both ongoing and single-event, at Partner nonprofit organizations. For example, at the time of writing, 95 volunteer opportunities were listed on the Hands On Central Texas website. Partner nonprofits are categorized by impact area, such as “Civic & Community,” “Children & Youth Education,” or “Hunger & Homelessness,” and their distance from the Center is included for volunteers who have limited time and/or means to travel. Dates for upcoming Days of Service such as H-E-B’s ‘Feast of Sharing’ are included under Special Events.

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During National Volunteer Week there are many activities in which to take part, and all are covered in a Resource Guide published online by the Points of Light Institute. The Guide includes specific tools for planning community projects, getting the news to the press, writing compelling stories, and even how to calculate volunteer hours needed and the value of volunteer hours expended. Most importantly, however, National Volunteer Week is not only about bringing nonprofits, community-minded businesses, and volunteers together; it is also a time for recognizing and appreciating these special people who mean so much to our organizations. Toward that end, the Guide offers some excellent suggestions for ways to thank your volunteers as well.

To read more about the history of National Volunteer Week, click here.

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Richard Beeman