Want to get involved? A plethora of tri-state organizations share how volunteers make a difference

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

Paula Paider. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Beth Rowe. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Kara Popp. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Josh Jasper. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Ashley Redenbaugh PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

Paula Paider. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Beth Rowe. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Kara Popp. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Josh Jasper. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Ashley Redenbaugh PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

Paula Paider. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Beth Rowe. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Kara Popp. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Josh Jasper. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Ashley Redenbaugh PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Everyone has an interest or skill that could be put to good use by volunteering.

Perhaps you have an interest in caring for animals, feeding the hungry, tutoring children, building houses for the homeless or responding to disasters around the U.S. or world.

Whether you to choose to volunteer by giving of your time, talent or financial resources, area nonprofits always have a need for help. Finding the volunteer opportunities that interest you is made easier through area organizations.

United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States

“United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States has a strong tie to volunteerism in the community,” said Paula Paider Licht, director of community building and impact.

In a typical year, Paider Licht said United Way connects approximately 20,000 area people to volunteer opportunities which equates to a value of more than $450,000 if the volunteers were paid employees.

The Get Connected portal accessible through dbqunitedway.org, brings nonprofit organizations and volunteers together. Nonprofits can post and update their volunteer needs as often as daily.

Currently, 121 organizations have volunteer needs posted on the portal. The organizations range from traditional human service providers to more specialized and unique nonprofits.

Community members that are interested in volunteering quickly can create individualized profiles and select areas of interest to them such as food scarcity, education or animals.

Portal users can search for opportunities that fit their interests and/or skills and also will receive emails when a new opportunity that matches their interests is posted by an organization.

Portal users also can choose to follow specific nonprofit organizations so they are aware of when volunteer opportunities are available.

“United Way hosts the portal because we believe volunteering is the way to give back to the community and to build a greater sense of the area needs and resources that are available,” Paider Licht said. “The portal is a great way to connect agencies that have volunteer opportunities with people seeking to get engaged in the community.”

United Way also actively shares volunteer opportunities on their Facebook page, at community meetings and in their monthly e-newsletter.

The pandemic didn’t stop the need for volunteers by the nonprofits. To increase safety and follow COVID restriction and guidelines, nonprofits began to offer virtual and at-home and/or work volunteer opportunities that had little to no contact.

“This allowed our very generous community to still give back and the organizations still had their needs met,” Paider Licht said. “Everyone became creative and adapted. Volunteering provides a huge benefit to our nonprofits. When people volunteer, it helps that agency move their mission forward and builds stronger, healthier and safer communities. With the additional volunteer support, nonprofits can direct their very limited resources to what they do best, which is to serve our community.”

There also are personal benefits to volunteering.

Volunteers can meet new people, gain a fresh perspective, realize a sense of purpose and become happier. Volunteering also can boost self-esteem and increases brain function. Plus, volunteers learn about nonprofits in the community, should they ever need to use or share information about services that someone might need.

Volunteering through the workplace

Because United Way is connected to both the nonprofit world and the business sector, they are able to match groups interested in volunteering as part of a workplace team-building event. It’s a win-win for everyone involved as it builds employee engagement and employee satisfaction.

Dubuque Bank and Trust has provided more than 29,000 volunteer hours since 2016, to impact communities in Iowa.

“Our volunteer activities range from assistance at our local schools, providing free tax services to underserved communities, to prepping meals for individuals in need,” said Beth Rowe, DB&T marketing and public relations director. “In addition, DB&T’s employees actively serve on over 60 community boards.”

DB&T provides eight hours of paid time off annually for all employees to volunteer in their community.

“We try to live out our mission every day, which is to enrich lives one customer, employee and community at a time,” Rowe said. “As a community bank, actively contributing to the vitality of the communities in which we live and work is very important.”

Volunteering as a college student

Colleges and universities provide a connection of ways their students can volunteer and provide community service through the student life department.

Northeast Iowa Community College kicks off the fall semester with a community organization and wellness fair.

“We invite agencies to our campus to share volunteer opportunities with our students,” said Kara Popp, NICC director of student life, diversity and leadership. “We also try to connect with faculty who teach our First Year College Experience course as they can assist us to spread the word about possible volunteer opportunities for students. Oftentimes, students help organize volunteer opportunities such as a trip to Waterloo to volunteer at the NE Iowa Food Bank.”

NICC students can learn about volunteer opportunities through the Student Life Department. Also, iMPACT, a student leadership team, plans service opportunities for students on and off campus.

The annual alternative spring break service trip for students from the Peosta and Calmar, Iowa, campuses includes a week of service, along with taking in the sites and culture of the community the students are serving.

“Our service trips are the most popular volunteer event as it allows students the opportunity to travel to a U.S. city and do something meaningful over their spring break,” Popp said. “Oftentimes, students have not had the opportunity to travel and this is a great way to see a city as a tourist and as a volunteer.”

Recent groups have traveled to Memphis, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Nashville, Washington D.C., Boston, Phoenix and Houston.

Students have had the opportunity to help serve in homeless shelters, after-school programs, medical supply collections, food distribution centers, community gardens and more.

In the spring of 2020, 24 students went to Phoenix, Aria., to volunteer at a food bank.

One student said, “The most rewarding part for me was volunteering at the Hope for Hunger food bank. I grew up going to a local food pantry with my grandma and that’s why I was motivated to volunteer there. I knew what it was like to be on the other side.”

Another student commented, “The most rewarding part of this trip was getting to meet and bond with new people that I never thought I would be friends with. I also loved helping others that are in need with my own hands and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards.”

Resources Unite

Another venue to find volunteer opportunities is through Resources Unite.

“We partner with hundreds of organizations to connect people to volunteer opportunities and resources that lead to a happier and more engaged way of life,” said President and CEO Josh Jasper.

More than 31,255 volunteers were connected to opportunities in 2019 and 2020 through Resources Unite.

“We help people, groups and businesses connect to both short and long-term volunteer opportunities,” Jasper said. “Additionally, we connect people that require community service as mandated through the court system to volunteer opportunities.”

Volunteer opportunities through Resources Unite are showcased on their social media and in an ad every Saturday in the Telegraph Herald

During the past three-plus years, Ashley Redenbaugh found volunteer opportunities through Resources Unite.

“I’ve volunteered at St. Stephen’s food bank when they needed drivers to distribute boxes of food,” she said. “I also helped others get a family out of an abusive situation. When I have time off from my job as a CNA at Mercy One, I call Josh up and ask if there is something that he needs done volunteer-wise.”

Redenbaugh also has donated food and baby items to Resources Unite since the pandemic began.

“I know how it feels not to have food, diapers or wipes in the house,” she said. “I know how it feels to feel like a failure. Josh told me that I have a purpose in this world, and I just needed to find it. My children and I feel better knowing that we can help people in need.”

Jill Carlson is a freelance writer from Madison, Wis.

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