Volunteering by its very nature is a social activity. And despite the past year of social distancing, the enthusiasm of volunteers throughout central Illinois has not diminished. In fact, even though volunteering looks and feels a lot different today, overall participation increased by 20 percent last year.
With all of these changes, and with community engagement focused on the response to COVID-19, our online volunteer community (volunteer.hoiunitedway.org) has become the go-to resource in our community for volunteering. The Heart of Illinois United Way, our partner agencies, local university partners, and our workplace volunteer programs have transformed from large, one-time group projects to ongoing, individualized opportunities. Over the last year, just a few of our community engagement efforts have included:
- Delivering streaming devices to low-income students learning from home;
- Setting up a food delivery system for low-income and homebound individuals referred by 2-1-1;
- Launching a Corporate Volunteer Council to support employee volunteer programs; and
- Hosting a series of focus groups and educational webinars to help volunteer administrators adapt their programs.
Currently, United Way is helping the Health Department recruit volunteers for the ongoing vaccination response, developing a new skills-based volunteer matching initiative, and working with the Regional Office of Education on STEAM-based, virtual volunteer needs for the upcoming fall semester.
Through technology and community-wide collaborations, United Way is ready to work with nonprofits and volunteers to stay connected and engaged with the people and needs of central Illinois. For more information about volunteering, visit volunteer.hoiunitedway.org. PM