Inter-Change

VOLUNTEERS

Teaming up to make a difference for 2003, volunteers renovate a local children's playground

 Volunteering Keeps the Holiday Feeling Alive All Year Long

(ARA) - Many people find that they suffer from post holiday letdown: the parties and gift-giving are history, New Yearís resolutions are already broken and there are still months of winter left. Part of what makes the holidays so special is the sense of goodwill that abounds. Thereís no reason the glow that comes from thinking more about others than about yourself has to come to an abrupt end. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to help others all year.

Just as with other New Yearís resolutions, itís time to stop making excuses like I donít have enough time, or Iím not sure where to start. VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit Web site, makes volunteering easy. The site, located at www.volunteermatch.org, serves as a clearinghouse for organizations needing volunteers and volunteers looking for a place to use their skills.

There are literally thousands of opportunities waiting on VolunteerMatch, making it easier than ever to find a great place to volunteer. The service has already helped more than 23,000 community service organizations post over 40,000 opportunities, and VolunteerMatch has generated nearly 1 million new volunteer referrals since its start in 1998.

Any nonprofit or tax-exempt organization can list volunteer opportunities on the Web site; potential volunteers simply enter their ZIP code to find local opportunities. Volunteers can also search by interest, date and keyword to generate a personally customized list. Once a volunteer finds a listing theyíre interested in, they simply click the link to contact the organization and get involved.

Kathleen Murray is one volunteer who takes full advantage of VolunteerMatch. Beginning in January 2002, she began working on a personal goal of volunteering in 12 different states for at least 12 different nonprofit agencies. I feel called to volunteer, says Murray. I have been extremely blessed in my life and it is my way of giving back and making a difference. She has used VolunteerMatch to sign up for the majority of her volunteer stints.

At the outset, Murray decided to devote six months to working on childrenís issues and six months addressing issues of hunger, homelessness, poverty, special needs and aging. She started her odyssey at a neo-natal unit in Atlanta. From there she moved on to an assisted living facility for the elderly in New Orleans; then she was off to Santa Fe, N.M., to volunteer at a food bank. She has also worked at an agency in San Diego that serves homeless street kids and at-risk youth, and at the San Francisco Food Bank. Her most far-flung assignment took her to Alaska to volunteer at a shelter for individuals with AIDS and HIV. Her final destination is New York.

My personal experience is that I get much more from it than I feel I give to it, says Murray. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ĎEveryone has the power for greatness, not for fame, but for greatness, because greatness is determined by service.í I believe that.

Community organizations find the Web an easy and efficient way to connect with people who can support their efforts through volunteer activity, says Jay Backstrand, president of VolunteerMatch. Volunteers can find out if their skills meet an organizationís needs before they make contact, and itís also a great way for organizations to get the word out about projects and special needs within a specific community.

Find the match that will help you experience the personal reward and fulfillment that comes with volunteering, at www.volunteermatch.org.

Courtesy of ARA Content