This post originally appeared on the White House blog on December 15, 2011.
I am honored to be recognized as a Champion of Change through President Obama's Winning the Future Initiative. I have volunteered with the President at service projects in Washington, DC and along with my colleagues at HandsOn Greater DC Cares and the volunteer community of our region, share his commitment to achieving change through service.
As the country confronts both new and long-standing societal challenges, its communities are seeking innovative and sustainable ways to resolve the problems that they face. Volunteers offer significant economic and social benefits, and are now giving back to their communities at near record rates and in dramatically new ways, and are uniting to drive conversations and actions towards addressing their communities' most critical needs.
As a leading coordinator of community service in the Greater Washington, DC region, HandsOn Greater DC Cares works to address key social issues facing individuals and families by building the capacity of nonprofits, schools, and communities through volunteerism, service and support.
Over the past year, HandsOn Greater DC Cares called upon 43,000 community volunteers to play an integral role in the region's economic recovery. Volunteers alleviated the effects of the downturn for families through meal distribution and preparation, job search consultation, and the upkeep of emergency housing facilities. Our volunteers also worked in partnership with hundreds of nonprofits in DC, MD, and VA to strengthen their capacity as they fight to eradicate the root causes of poverty.
Due to changes in the ways in which people live, work and utilize technology- and therefore how and why they serve- HandsOn Greater DC Cares has developed new ideas and programs to maximize volunteer engagement. Among those nationally-recognized models:
- Mentorship: DC area students seeking a mentor currently sit on a 2-year waiting list. Working closely with corporate partners, HandsOn Greater DC Cares brings together 35 nonprofit organizations engaged in mentoring to build their capacity, raise awareness of the impact of mentoring on education outcomes, and recruit enough mentors to enable these programs to grow. Through building nonprofit capacity and recruiting 500 mentors annually, we work to ensure that every child at risk of not attending college and achieving his or her full potential will be matched with a caring adult mentor.
- Skills-Based Volunteering: Harnessing the talent of area corporations and highly-skilled professionals, HandsOn Greater DC Cares dramatically increases the impact of nonprofit partners through strategic planning, graphic design, website development, financial management strategies, and more. We also place skilled corporate and individual job coaches with people seeking employment to improve job search and workplace readiness skills.
- Board Leadership: Annually, HandsOn Greater DC Cares trains 250+ executives in the basics of effective board leadership, including governance, finance, fundraising, and law. These executives then have the opportunity to go through an individualized matching process where they can be placed onto the board of directors of a local nonprofit.
- Neighborhood Engagement: HandsOn Greater DC Cares identified 5 fragile DC communities, where we work closely with neighborhood residents to identify priorities and develop strategies to address unmet needs. With support from AmeriCorps VISTAs, community residents have started GED classes for adults, health fairs, beautification projects, after school programs, and much more to address the challenges that they see developing in their own communities.
We look forward to continuing to deepen our work in neighborhoods across the region, expand and improve upon our programming and recruit and place volunteers to support our community.
For more information, please visit http://www.greaterdccares.org/or follow us on twitter @greaterdccares.
Curtis Cannon is the Vice President of Partner Services at HandsOn Greater DC Cares.