United Way: Volunteer Portal

By Madison Fraser

Since United Way Worldwide was founded in 1887, we have been known as fundraisers – but we are so much more than that. In small towns and big cities around the world, we engage millions of people who seek to change lives and communities through service, collaboration, and impact. The United Way of Waco-McLennan County is no exception to this effort. Right here in Greater Waco and surrounding McLennan County, we are actively working to bridge community volunteers to the impact and important work of our local nonprofits.

Volunteerism is core to the mission of United Way across the globe. In 40 countries, over 2.8 million volunteers are engaged in United Ways and are actively serving their communities. United Ways share a vision of a world where all individuals and families achieve their human potential for education, healthy lives, and income stability. To realize this vision and thrive globally and locally, we work to ensure our donors and our community leaders can engage in volunteer experiences that enable them to witness firsthand the power of their personal philanthropy and support our work with their time and talents.

United Way’s GET CONNECTED volunteer portal, found at www.volunteergreaterwaco.com, exists to be the volunteer hub of McLennan County. It provides a real opportunity for you to give back beyond making a financial contribution.  Every volunteer hour given is the equivalent of $24 going back into our community. GET CONNECTED can connect you to local organizations, including the recent 2019-20 funded partner organizations, that are seeking volunteers to assist with the crucial work they do in our community every day. GET CONNECTED will also help connect your employee volunteer teams to meaningful volunteer experiences. Whether it’s a one-day activity or on-going team-building projects, GET CONNECTED is available to assist you through the entire process.

Surprisingly, over 71% of volunteers donate their time to only one organization per year. There are many factors to take into consideration as to why this might be, however, the most common seems to be that most volunteers are not aware of all available opportunities in their communities. Sixty-seven percent of people found more volunteer opportunities online in 2014 vs 34% in 2006, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service. GET CONNECTED is a great online resource for individuals to be informed of volunteer opportunities in their local community. The user-friendly portal is designed for individuals to create a user profile and specify their areas of interest and skills, such as education, health, food prep, manual labor, etc. Then, as new opportunities become available in the volunteer’s areas of interest, the portal will send them a notification so they will always be informed on current volunteer opportunities in the community.

The GET CONNECTED portal is your resource for both individual volunteers and for corporations and organizations who are looking for group volunteer opportunities for their employees. Volunteering as a group with your coworkers is beneficial for numerous reasons, including team bonding, reducing stress in the workplace, increasing motivation for leadership, and improving skill development. The portal allows for a team leader to easily sign up their team for an opportunity, quickly upload all required documents necessary to volunteer at an organization, and track volunteer hours.

Volunteers who feel meaningfully connected to an organization and their work stay engaged longer, donate more, and recruit other volunteers and donors. Offering a variety of volunteering opportunities is critical to responding to and meeting the needs, interests and availability of volunteers. Diverse points of entry to United Way’s volunteering landscape help form long lasting contributions and relationships that in turn will help United Way of Waco-McLennan County achieve its goals to improve the quality of education, health, financial stability, and safety net services in Waco-McLennan County.

If you are interested in volunteer opportunities in the Greater Waco or Waco-McLennan County area community, please visit www.volunteergreaterwaco.com.

Madison Fraser is a recent graduate of Baylor University where she earned her BA in journalism in 2018. Currently she serves as the Campaign and Communications Coordinator at United Way of Waco-McLennan County where she discovered her passion of community building and advocacy through the work of nonprofits.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Summertime at the Cove

by Kelly Atkinson

The Cove is a teen nurturing center designed to provide a safe space for students experiencing homelessness to access the resources they need to thrive. Waco ISD high school students typically arrive at The Cove after school to receive wraparound care which includes anything from tutoring help to hot meals. 

With the end of summer nearing, we are excited to share all that our students have accomplished in the last few months. To kick the summer off, we celebrated graduation for 12 local seniors who both experienced homelessness and graduated high school! At an invitation-only, after-hours celebration at the Magnolia Silos, graduates celebrated an accomplishment some never dreamed possible. With dinner and ambiance provided by Magnolia, The Magnolia Baking Co., and Captain Billy Whizzbang’s, Cove scholars heard from Cove Co-Founder Rosemary Townsend and local teen mentor, Darryl Thomas, with The Size of a Man. Together they reminded students that: 
“Regardless of where we come from or where we’re going, we need to hold hands, be in community, respect and love one another.”  

So, what are the next steps for a recent Cove graduate? While it is always our desire to help students successfully transition into college, full-time work, the military or a certificate program, we don’t always know what Cove scholars choose to do next. What we do know is that some students stay connected and we get to journey with them into life after high school. 

One of our May graduates came to us in the spring having just transitioned out of the foster care system. She was a hard-working student with plans to attend a local college this fall. Since our Nurturing Center was open all summer, we learned that this student did not have the immunizations she needed, access to her birth certificate and financial information, or stable housing. While she was perfectly capable of performing academically, she had no access to the resources she needed to actually enroll in higher education. 

Throughout the summer, our staff team, volunteers, and local community partners like Caritas, The TSTC Foundation, Mission Waco’s MPowerment program, and the Department of Children’s Protective Services worked together to help this student realize her dreams. Just last week, she moved into an on-campus apartment, got a laptop, and started a new job! 

Most Cove Scholars have similar dreams and obstacles. We know that every student needs to know that there are people who care about them, who will help them realize those dreams.    

People can help The Cove in two ways – by giving donations in the form of snacks, sensory items, and hygiene items all of which can be found in our Amazon wishlist here and by supporting financially to help fund our operations. Whether you’re helping as an individual or with a group of friends, every bit of investment is appreciated.

Kelly Atkinson’s passion is to see individuals and families thrive in healthy communities. She came to The Cove in March of 2018 and enjoys working with a strong team, grant writing, and strategic planning. While not at work, she can be found relishing time with her three children and husband, John. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.