The below article was initially published in The Telegraph.
The spirit of volunteerism has long been the backbone of the bi-state region; through many challenging times, our neighbors have always stepped up to get involved and help each other out. Our local United Way’s Volunteer Center has played a critical role in giving our community opportunities to lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need.
This year marks the Volunteer Center’s 90th anniversary of connecting people to opportunities to volunteer and be a part of the greater goal of creating a better region for our neighbors to live here and thrive. As we celebrate Global Volunteer Month in April, we reflect on the impact of local volunteers in building a stronger and healthier St. Louis region.
In 1933, United Way of Greater St. Louis, then known as the Community Council, created the Division of Volunteer Service. Hundreds of volunteers joined the division in their efforts to help the community by teaching night classes, mentoring youth, visiting seniors and families in need, providing comfort and support to the sick, and more.
The division eventually became known as the Volunteer Center, which is the second oldest of its kind in the nation. The Volunteer Center became especially important during World War ll, leading efforts to recruit women for jobs while men were deployed to military service. Thousands of women volunteered to stand in their place, joining in one of the largest and most significant volunteer efforts of the time.
Over the course of the next several decades, the Volunteer Center continued to grow and expand in various ways, giving more people an opportunity to get involved in our volunteer efforts.
For example, in the 1980s, our Volunteer Center started an initiative known as the Volunteer Program Certification. Through this process, we partner with hundreds of nonprofits, several municipalities, and other types of organizations to equip them with the tools needed for organizations to meet nationally recognized standards that are critical to recruit, train, supervise and recognize quality volunteers.
Now in the 21st Century, the Volunteer Center continues to find new ways to ignite the spirit of volunteerism from everyone in our community.
Our Volunteer Center continues to be valuable to this day. Technology has helped us discover more efficient ways to recruit volunteers and help connect them to the right opportunity. Through, individuals, families, schools, church groups and more can find a whole host of volunteer opportunities and can filter by location, date, passion and keyword. During the pandemic, we also began implementing remote opportunities and Do-It-Yourself projects where people can make a difference by assembling animal shelter blankets, dinner baskets, backpacks for kids in foster care, and more.
The Volunteer Center also offers Customized Service Projects to companies throughout the region in which we provide training, Service2Go projects, site-led projects, coordinated projects, and coordinated supply drives. Nearly 160,000 total volunteer hours have been associated with these projects, valuing at more than $4,100,000 to the community.
As a service to the community, the Volunteer Center powersand currently engages 440 agencies in our 16-county region. Last year, over 5,000 volunteers were recruited through the site to serve our local community. Since United Way of Greater St. Louis’ Volunteer Center launched in 2012, over 40,000 volunteers have been recruited to help with local projects.
The Volunteer Center has reached this 90-year milestone because of our community’s commitment to building a better future for our neighbors. Generous people throughout our 16-county region, including Madison County, have continuously answered the call to serve, helping millions of individuals and families get access to the resources they need.
To everyone who has contributed to our efforts – we extend our deepest gratitude and thank you! Our region is better off because of you.