Hands On Tahoe: Info and assistance to volunteers | SierraSun.com

Hands On Tahoe: Info and assistance to volunteers

Christine Stanley

So you want to volunteer. But where and how? With so many choices and so much scattered information, it’s often hard to know where to begin.To help citizens connect with the best volunteer organizations and opportunities to suit their needs, Lynette Eddy, a self-proclaimed professional volunteer, and the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation have been hard at work for the past year establishing Hands On Tahoe, a Web-based network of area non-profit organizations, philanthropic projects and willing individuals. Any organization or individual who wants to post a volunteer opportunity or desire on the Website is able to do so, according to Community Foundation CEO Lisa Dobey. Besides helping those clients and service providers connect, the Hands On team, which currently consists of five volunteers, also works with non-profits to identify where short-term volunteers can be used, and helps them to understand the basis of volunteer management and training.”We want to find out about the experiences of past volunteers and non-profits who have worked with us, so that we can enhance programs and increase awareness,” said volunteer coordinator Linda Stewart. One number the group hopes to boost is that of long-term volunteers. Most people tend to choose project-based volunteer opportunities instead of committing to set positions, said Dobey, which is of course necessary, but often leaves the bigger picture and behind-the-scenes needs unattended.To manage that gap, there has been an increased push to find ways to use the skills of retirees.”There isn’t a single non-profit who couldn’t use people with expertise in public relations, systems management, and marketing,” Dobey said. “There are a lot of people out there with business skills that could be put to good use.”The needs for such skills, and thus the basis for the formation of Hands on Tahoe, was shown in the early years of the new Millennium, when the nation found itself in a period of recession.Contracts given to non-profits by state and federal governments were suddenly reduced, especially in the area of human services, according to Dobey. On top of that came fewer donations from hard-pressed citizens and an increased need from the community at large. “The Community Foundation didn’t have the funds to meet all client needs, but we had the connections with people who could facilitated those needs,” Dobey said.And in walked Eddy, ready to put forth the effort it would take to create a network of clients and service providers.”[Hands On Tahoe] has been really effective. We’re making tons of hook-ups by making it easy for people to get out there,” Eddy said. “There are so many opportunities out there, that give people great experiences and allow them to meet people and be a part of the community.”