Upper Columbia Volunteer Center launches

A new venture, the Upper Columbia Volunteer Center, is finally ready to take off with the help of the Volunteer Centers of Washington. A grant of $10,000 of Volunteer Generation Funds was awarded to the Upper Columbia Volunteer Center to help with start-up costs, equipment and outreach. Jacques Livingston, President of the Volunteer Centers of Washington stated, “I am excited that your organization is launching a new center in Northeast Washington and I hope that our state network will be able to provide some peer mentorship as we can truly appreciate the task of starting up a new center.” The Volunteer Generation Funds were only given to 11 states based on the grant application co-sponsored by the Volunteer Centers of Washington and the Washington Commission for National and Community Service (CNCS). “Washington’s acceptance was in large part due to the leadership of Bill Basl, the Executive Director of the Washington State Commission,” commented Livingston. “These funds are based with the Corporation for National and Community Service. This is further evidence of how CNCS is able to support grassroots community efforts to promote volunteerism and service as not just a feel good mission, but as a necessity to carry our communities through the current economic difficulties.” The idea of a volunteer center here in the Inland Northwest began because of the trouble non-profits were having in finding volunteers. Ann Van Dielen, a former board member of Colville Horizons, pioneered research on establishing a volunteer center in the Upper Columbia area that includes Stevens, Ferry, Pend Oreille and Lincoln counties. There was a meeting in the summer 2011 between Colville Horizons, Kettle Horizons and 501 Commons, a representative of Volunteer Centers of Washington in Colville, to construct a strategic plan to bring a volunteer center to the area. Kettle Falls Horizons Community Program, a501c3 non-profit, became the host organization, which the UCVC is a program service. A work group of Kettle Falls Horizons board members and community members from Kettle Falls, Colville and the surrounding area was formed to lay the foundation to get the center operating in 2012. “Some of the issues that the Upper Columbia Volunteer Center hopes to address are that non-profit organizations are chronically short of volunteers, youth involvement is minimal and education on recruiting and retaining volunteers is almost non-existent,” said Steve Gray, work group leader. “When the federal government gave the cry to volunteer, smaller non-profits did not have the training to effectively attract volunteers and use them in the most efficient way for both the organization and the volunteer. The solution became clear that a volunteer center was needed to help in these areas.” “The purpose of the Upper Columbia Volunteer Center (UCVC) is to strengthen communities in Stevens, Ferry, Pend Oreille and Lincoln counties. The UCVC will be committed to educating for-profit and non-profits on how and where they can make a difference in their communities. Building capacity of non-profits through expanding the accessibility to volunteers, education on recruitment and retention of those volunteers, will be a major focus of the Volunteer Center.” The UCVC is a member of the Volunteer Centers of Washington (VCW) and will work closely with the other 13 centers located around the state. The areas that the VCW are focusing on is increasing the number of volunteers, increasing the number of skill based volunteers, recruit veterans or active duty personnel volunteers and increase training to prepare individuals living in low-income and senior communities to sustain themselves in times of disaster. The UCVC is also committed in providing projects that highlight these areas and at the same time build a solid foundation for the volunteer center in Stevens County. Future plans include creating a Speaker’s Bureau to speak to organizations, recruit partners and create an outreach plan that will be used to go to the other target counties. “We want to get it right first in Stevens County,” Gray said. “We plan to start outreach in 2013 to the Upper Columbia counties.” The Upper Columbia Volunteer Center is located behind the American West Bank in the Kettle Falls Horizons office and computer lab at 365 W. Third, Suite B. For more information, call 738-3121, leave a message, or contact Gray at 675-1820.