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Nevada County’s revamped volunteer program debuts through Connecting Point

Interested in cuddling some kitties? How about sharing your passion for local history as a museum docent? Or showing off your carpentry skills?

Whatever your skill set, level of interest or schedule, Nevada County has a number of non-profit groups eager for would-be volunteers to plug in and make a difference. And now, Connecting Point has launched a Volunteer Hub website designed to make the process easier than ever.

“It’s all about supporting local organizations to do amazing work in the community,” said Connecting Point Communications Manager Heather Heckler. “We’re really excited to be a part of that.”

The Volunteer Hub has been in the works for more than a year, in the wake of the closure of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in December 2017.

After the Agency on Aging Area 4 suspended its funding for RSVP, then-Director of Social Services Mike Dent began working to find a new agency to administer the popular program and to expand it beyond its original scope. At the time Dent calculated more than 400 volunteers worked at over 40 agencies, donating a total of 82,416 volunteer hours in a 15-month period.

Connecting Point was a logical choice, since the organization administers 211 Nevada County, a resource and information hub that connects people with community programs and services through a searchable web page and 24/7 local call center.

“This is a reboot and an expansion,” Heckler said. “This is for everybody. … The county is funding the program and they want it to be for all residents, of all ages.”

The Volunteer Hub has been a work in process for awhile, Heckler said, but it now up and running.

“We built out a really nice database and website we think will work well for engaging volunteers and organizations,” she said. “We’ve been working with organizations for about six months. We were recruiting them to get their volunteer opportunities in the system, we wanted to make sure we had that in place.”

As of now, Heckler said, there are 40 active organizations in the system.

“There is everything from Wildlife Rehabilitation & Release, which is a pretty small organization, to bigger names like Sierra Harvest and The Food Bank,” she said. “We wanted a really wide range of types of organizations and opportunities.”

One group that was under the radar even for Heckler was St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, which was the first to sign up with a need for recruits for its board, museum and rose garden. Other options available are as diverse as after-school driving for the Friendship Club and helping out at AnimalSave’s Book Nook, she said.

Heckler is particularly excited about how user-friendly the online Volunteer Hub will prove to be both for organizations and would-be volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering can search by organization, date, interest, age, location and available schedule, for instance.

For some opportunities, such as a bulk mailing project for Anew Day on Tuesday, you can just sign up online and show up, Heckler said. For some opportunities that don’t have a specific schedule or that require background checks, you express interest and the organization will contact you.

“It has something built in I think is cool,” Heckler said. “It reminds volunteers their opportunity is coming up and asks them to verify once they have completed the opportunity. It also allows them to track their hours so they have a record of their service.”

The online hub also makes it easier for organizations to manage their volunteers, with an online portal that allows them to better track attendance, for example.

To get connected through the website, says Heckler, go to https://volunteerhub.connectingpoint.org/ or just call 211 to meet with a liaison one on one. If you need an 800 number, call 1-833-DIAL-211.

Reporter Liz Kellar can be reached at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.


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