Volunteer Starkville has experienced exponential growth since its founding in 2010, expanding its network from 30 nonprofits to 105. Since 2012, annual volunteers have blossomed from 734 to 2,388 – a number only accounting for VS-driven programs and initiatives. When including its nonprofit partners, volunteer man-hours jump from 6,612 to 137,570.
VS is a “one-stop shop” for getting involved with grass-root community efforts, a central hub that connects people with passion projects and non-profits. Without a central network tying together the broad array of volunteer opportunities, many willing community members would miss out due to a basic lack of awareness.
“We are sort of like a clearing house for volunteerism. We want volunteering to be fun and easy,” said Jamey Bachman, executive director of Volunteer Starkville. “We serve two audiences: local nonprofits and organizations that have volunteer needs and the citizens of Oktibbeha County who want to volunteer.”
At any given time, VS offers 75 to 90 active volunteer opportunities, which can be accessed through a variety of avenues on the organization’s website, including a newsletter, a community event calendar and a streamlined, comprehensive nonprofit database.
VS lends a hand in community-oriented efforts ranging from after school programs to coat drives to therapeutic writing classes. The organization also spearheads its own efforts – such as the MLK Day of Service, a series of events from Jan. 18-20 featuring a Community Volunteer Fair at the Starkville Sportsplex (think arts festival with non-profit booths).
For more information about the MLK Day of Service, copy and paste this link: http://tinyurl.com/lh5vy54
Eileen Carr-Tabb, a health educator for the Mississippi Department of Health, said she could not reach as many children in Oktibbeha County without VS. She just wouldn’t have the human capital. Carr-Tabb works with organizations like the Brickfire Project and Emerson Family Resource Center, implementing a variety of health fairs, workshops and presentations. She explained VS sends a steady stream of specialized and general volunteers: some may conduct nutrition presentations, while others run the registration table.
“We would not be able to do what we do or reach the number of people we need to reach without these volunteers,” she said. “It’s too costly to hire new people to assist with these programs. Whether events get posted on the website or you just call and talk to Jamey, Volunteer Starkville helps service the community. At a recent summer camp I helped with, the numbers were doubled (to approximately 80 children) because of Volunteer Starkville.”
VS organizes its vision into 12 categories of service. A few examples: Hunger and Homelessness; Arts, Culture and History; Animal/Wildlife Care and Advocacy; Healthy Futures; Veteran and Military Families – among others.
“There is something for everybody, opportunities matching a variety of skills and interests,” Bachman said.
To explore, copy and paste this link: http://tinyurl.com/kv7r3kq
Bachman also said the scope of her organization will soon broaden further, encompassing Clay and Winston County, adding 30 more nonprofits to the network. The expansion is part of a broader effort by the Mississippi Commission of Volunteer Service (or Volunteer Mississippi, as the state agency is widely known) to leverage the eight total volunteer centers spread across populated regions of Mississippi in order to serve rural areas. The entire system is propped up by federal grants administered by the Corporation for National & Community Service. But those grants are beginning to dwindle, making sponsorship and donations (VS’ lifeline) increasingly important.
Cash sponsorship is not the only way to contribute: several companies provide “in-kind” contributions, such as free advertising space in the Starkville Daily News (in the form of weekly volunteer announcements) or discounted office space afforded by the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.
The City of Starkville (one of several public and private sponsors) has raised its contribution each year, currently tabbed at $2,500. The city also supports the Touch-a-Truck fundraiser in April, which allows children to climb upon and honk the horns of a variety of city and county-owned vehicles, including dump trucks, fire trucks and street sweepers. Bachman periodically reports before the Starkville Board of Alderman, on her own accord, because she wants “the city to see where its money is going.”
“Without local buy-in, we would not be here,” Bachman said. “These programs are alive because volunteers keep them going. Think about the Boy Scouts, for instance. It’s unreal how many people dedicate their time every Monday night to help develop our youth. Without volunteers, that program doesn't exist. We're in a place where volunteerism is vibrant and that is relating to the quality of life that my children are going to have.”
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