Community Connections: Volunteer Prince William Makes a Difference

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By Helena Tavares Kennedy

If you’ve taken a tag off a tree during the holidays and purchased gifts for local children and seniors in need through the local Un-Trim-A-Tree program, you’ve helped Volunteer Prince William (VPW) meet a community need. Or perhaps you were a recipient of such gifts. But were you aware of the many other local services the organization provides to the community?

As the motto on VPW’s website, volunteerprincewilliam.org, says, “It begins with the power of one.” The nonprofit organization helps coordinate and meet community needs through volunteer resources and has been since 1981. VPW not only runs the popular Un-Trim-A-Tree holiday gift program, the organization
also facilitates these key community services:

  • Volunteer Connections,
  • Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP),
  • Disaster Services, and
  • Court-ordered Alternative Service Program for adults and juveniles.

VPW is the coordinating agency for all court-related community service work in Prince William County, for both adult and juvenile cases. According to Shelley Tibbs, VPW’s adult and juvenile alternative service program coordinator, the services VPW provides are so important because they help “clients be successful.”

Helping Retired and Senior Volunteers Find the Best Fit

Jan Hawkins, RSVP director, leads the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which helps individuals age “55 and better” find volunteer opportunities in the community. RSVP volunteers help deliver Meals on Wheels, drive veterans to local medical appointments and provide education on being “safe at home” to
fourth grade students in local schools, among other services.

“Today’s seniors are extremely active with traveling, visiting family members and volunteering for local nonprofits,” said Hawkins. “They are always on the go and really passionate about making positive change in our community. They don’t let a minor detail like being older slow them down!”

Disaster Services and Assistance

Bonnie Fulford, disaster services coordinator, helps manage volunteer resources before, during and after weather emergencies. “Rather than all relief efforts getting spun up here and there, we coordinate with local governments, businesses and human service organizations to ensure the help reaches those in need,” said Fulford. “We match and direct volunteers to organizations where they can do the most good.”

“Volunteer Prince William has been active in several snowstorms, providing volunteers for snow removal to senior citizens and persons with disabilities when they have a home health care provider coming to their door, or they need to get out for medical appointments,” continued Fulford. “Additionally, volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles have transported dialysis patients to and from their appointments.”

Volunteers are not just needed for disaster relief. Volunteer Prince William runs a robust outreach program based on three tenets of disaster preparedness: 1) Build a kit; 2) Make a plan; and 3) Be informed. Another component is donations management. “Following disaster events, many groups and individuals are anxious to help but are unsure as to the best way to go about it,” said Fulford. “It is always of paramount importance to learn exactly what is needed, rather than to assume.”

Making Connections

VPW is like a couple’s matchmaker but for volunteers and organizations that need volunteers. The organization conveys volunteer needs of partners through a weekly “Call to Action” column that reaches 25,000 households in the region. VPW also facilitates connections with organizations, businesses and clubs to meet community needs.

Learning volunteer management best practices is also essential, and VPW offers this service through training and consulting services. The organization sponsors the Volunteer Coordinators Network, a working group open to all volunteer managers which promotes professionalism and networking opportunities for all members.

Mary E. Foley, VPW’s executive director, said that the best thing about the organization and what they do is “connecting people where they are most needed while utilizing the volunteers’ time and talents [in ways]that also meet their expectations.”

One VPW volunteer, Ted Campbell, delivers Meals on Wheels for RSVP. Campbell said, “Interacting with senior citizens is the most rewarding part of RSVP. I feel like I’m making a worthwhile contribution to help others, and I enjoy knowing I am able to provide a nutritious meal and critical social interaction to clients
who are by themselves during the day.”

There are many testimonials and thanks that VPW receives from people the organization has helped in the local community, including a recent note from Occoquan Elementary School that said, “We are most grateful we can count on you as a benefactor during this festive season to bring the simple joy of a toy to our children in need.”

Begin with the power of you

VPW is always looking to connect volunteers and their skills and talents to organizations that can use them. If you would like more information on how you can help or if you are in need of services, you can reach VPW online at volunteerprincewilliam.org or call 703-369-5292.

VPW is located at 9248 Center Street in Manassas and is an affiliate member of the Points of Light Institute and Hands On Network, whose mission is to inspire, mobilize and equip people to take action that can change the world. Because one person at a time really can change the world.

Helena Tavares Kennedy ([email protected]), a longtime Prince William County resident is a freelance writer, editor, and communications consultant at htkmarketingservices.com.

 

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