by Spencer Smith
United Way of Collier County
Volunteer Collier isn’t just a catchy name; it’s United Way of Collier County’s grassroots program dedicated to the improvement of our community. In addition to posting a plethora of volunteer opportunities on their website, such as tutoring, lifeguarding, and food distribution, they also coordinate with a wide variety of charities to help those in need.
Volunteer Collier focuses on making it easy for anyone to find volunteer work that is both engaging and rewarding at charities and civic organizations. Community partnerships make Volunteer Collier the most comprehensive source for volunteer opportunities in Collier County.
Beyond that, United Way staff work to organize large-scale projects for companies, churches and civic organizations.
Last December, Volunteer Collier partnered with the Ritz Carlton and Meals of Hope on a food drive where over 100 volunteers worked to prepare 40,176 meals to feed the hungry in Collier. Other projects have included Fifth Third Bank employees repainting Guadalupe Center’s thrift store, Xfinity/Comcast employees wrapping presents for the children at Youth Haven and
BMO Harris Bank employees working with children in the classroom at Children’s Home Society. Even with just a glimpse of the programs and opportunities Volunteer Collier provides, it is hard to imagine Collier County without them. However, had it not been for the leadership of Don Scott, we may have never had this core community program.
Inspired by his faith and by former President George H.W. Bush’s notion that volunteer organizations are like 1,000 points of light through which we can build our community and solve local problems, Don decided to volunteer.
His first attempt to volunteer made him aware of a missing component. Agencies were having a difficult time getting the word out to volunteers and volunteers didn’t know where the real needs of the community were. Scott’s solution was Volunteer Collier, A Points of Light/HandsOn Network supported volunteer matching website which bridged the gap between the agency and community needs. Acting as a one-stop-shop for any volunteering needs, Volunteer Collier allows its partnered charities to be more efficient by saving both time and money when looking for volunteers.
The staff and volunteers at Volunteer Collier don’t just talk the talk – they walk the walk. They are dedicated to improving the county for everyone, and that means continuing to improve Volunteer Collier. For example, in 2015 the program participants grew from 850 registered volunteers to 1560; an 84 percent increase in the number of people serving in our community.
These new volunteers possess different skills and talents, which has allowed Volunteer Collier to expand their scope of opportunities. The number of registered non-profits went from 100 to 188; an 88 percent increase in the span of one year. To give these numbers some perspective, in 2015 there were 3,414 volunteer hours logged. Since the average dollar value of one hour of a volunteer’s time is $22 (2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, indexed by Independent Sector in April 2016), we can calculate that Collier citizens invested more than $75,000 dollars of service into their community.
Considering that the program nearly doubled the number of volunteers and opened more doors for new volunteers, 2016 and the years to come are going to bring more exciting growth.
We’ve only just scratched the surface of what United Way and Volunteer Collier bring to our community, and much more detailed info can be found on the website at www.volunteercollier.org. There you can find the Opportunity Calendar, which lists upcoming events and volunteer options, as well as portals to assistance or volunteer programs.