Happy International Volunteer Managers Day – Day 2

International Volunteer Managers Day was yesterday, November 5, 2020. To celebrate the accomplishments of volunteer managers this year, we collected many of their stories of success from 2020. However, we received so many incredible responses that we weren’t able to share them all in one day! So we’ve decided to extend the celebration and share more stories each day over the next week!

If you weren’t able to enjoy the stories from yesterday, we encourage you to check out the original post! We have many more stories to share, and we’ll be continuing the celebration on Monday, November 9! So please join us again next week for more!

For day 2 of our celebration, we’ll be sharing more stories from volunteer managers who’ve really stepped up their game to overcome the challenges that have come along with COVID-19. Whether it was taking advantage of technology, overhauling their volunteer program, or adjusting their usual programming, these leaders were committed to keep serving their communities. They were adaptive, flexibile, creative, and resilient, and they have persevered through this difficult season!

This year has been a challange to say the least. However I have been inspired by the creative and loyal support of our amazing volunteer workforce. Eventhough most of our volunteer programs have had to close throughout this time, volunteers have been sending in letters of support, making face masks, asking about our clients, donating, creating beautiful artwork to make someone smile and just gone above and beyond. The continued support and the knowledge that the volunteers continue to be by our side has been a great motivator to keep going and continue to find creative ways to get people involved. We have had some beautiful “virtual” visits happen in Aged Care facilities with residents in lock down and some wonderful friendships have been formed.

The continued interest from current as well as new volunteers is reassuring and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back. So while its been an emotional rollercoaster for everyone, I can’t imagine a better and more rewarding job.

– Mizzi W., Sacred Heart Mission

Our team completely redesigned a program of providing individual health insurance counseling appointments to the public during a pandemic. In the past, these sessions were done in person. Now, we are using an appointment-based system where our volunteers make out-bound calls to seniors throughout the Twin Cities.

The amount of hoops we’ve had to jump through based on dealing with private health information (PHI) with senior citizens on behalf of the State of Minnesota was extraordinary, but we created a pilot program that launched last week. Kudos for creativity and resiliency!!

– Jetta W., Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging

In March like many other Volunteer Services we were forced to close all volunteer programs and services at our hospital. After weeks of working at home with no end in sight I decided it was best for me to return to the hospital and open the gift shop and try to at least get some income coming in. To my surprise I was very busy since most of the employees were not visiting any shopping centers. It was an eyeopener for me to see how the other side operates and meet all the hospital workers. I was also proud to continue to bring in revenue for the auxiliary in some way. Little did I expect it to last a full six months before I would have a small amount of the volunteers return to replace me so I could return to my full time duties as the volunteer manager.

All in all it was a humbling experience to give back to the volunteer program that so generously gives of their time and talents. I learned a lot and now have a new appreciation for the hard work each of them do to support our hospital.

Connie F., IU Healthy Jay

Smithsonian Associates Program moved all of our hundreds of lectures, art courses and tours to a virtual platform this summer. Some of the longtime volunteers switched to providing background support for these live streamed programs. Many new volunteers joined us in trainings on Zoom, and we are now 85 volunteers strong!

They have all learned new computer skills and helped each other master them. Additional volunteers served as audience members at mock webinars we developed as a training exercise.

Our staff had quite a journey to bring presenters and patrons online, and volunteers played a key role in that accomplishment.

– Jenna J., Smithsonian Associates Program

The 2020 pandemic has left many of our clients who are blind and low vision feeling lonely and isolated. Volunteers have helped significantly in connecting with our clients through remote programming and supporting behind the scenes efforts. Whether it is through virtual sing it out, yoga, dance, coffee chat, radio reading, or jeopardy, programs that have been led by our volunteers have held space for community and fun, allowing clients to forget for a short time the happenings of today’s events. Volunteers have provided happiness and an opportunity to connect. They have also helped inform clients about our programs.

If not for the volunteers we would not be able to offer such rich virtual experiences. Through their presence, clients are gifted with new relationships and memories, but most of all, with the knowledge that there are people who care and want them to be as happy and supported as possible. That energy has an endless and rippling effect on our community.

– Melissa M., Cleveland Sight Center

Our volunteer program has been successful this year by being flexible and adapting to the changing needs during COVID-19. While our volunteers could not continue in many of their current volunteer roles, they have stepped up and helped fill new roles to ensure we could provide for families while their child is receiving care.

My main objective is and has been, to maintain the connection with our volunteers while they are not able to be in our program spaces in the House and hospital. The message is not only “we miss you” but also, showing our volunteers that I truly care about them as people, beyond their volunteer role at our organization.

Through conversations with our volunteers, I have been amazed by how willing our volunteers are to adapt, be flexible, and understand our evolving needs. I’ve been touched by the dedication of our volunteers, which makes me hopeful that they can come alongside us to make an impact during a time when they can’t be physically present. I am so grateful to work with an amazing group of community minded people that are supporting RMHC Richmond in so many capacities.

– Diana V., Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond

The Airdrie Food Bank navigated through many challenges in 2020. Volgistics was a necessary tool as I worked from home for approximately two months. Having access to the schedule and all volunteer information enabled me to maintain the needs of our organization.

With the temporary closures & job loss surrounding us we had a large increase in clients accessing our services. We changed our processes on how to get hampers to our clients without them accessing our building. We increased our home deliveries and set up a system of boxing and bringing to client vehicles.

Our volunteers stepped up and managed each change in a positive and energetic way while abiding with the health and social distancing restrictions. We are so lucky to have such a great team of volunteers that always pull through no matter the challenge. Cheers to them!!

– Carolyn G., Airdrie Food Bank

We were able to quickly pivot our SEED Community Food Markets into SEED Emergency Food Home Delivery. With the help of over 200 newly recruited volunteers, we delivered nutritious food boxes to over 60000 households since April of this year! This couldn’t have been done without our volunteers (and Volgistics). Check out www.theSEEDguelph.ca for more information.

– Hannah S., Guelph Community Health Centre

I started as the new volunteer coordinator at the Rescue Mission just as COVID-19 began, and gosh I had no idea what I was stepping into. I have over fifteen years of experience leading volunteer efforts at organizations but being new to the south, new to the organization, and COVID-19 being new to us all, my plans on how to build a robust program dwindled quickly. However, I took advantage of the times we had to close our campus to volunteers to get organized, integrate a new volunteer database, learn about the organization, and develop new processes.

As most volunteer managers know, it’s difficult to find time to do an overhaul on an organizations volunteer program, that is, to slow down, purge old materials and develop new ones. The time was a gift in the midst of the chaos of COVID-19 hitting our nation and community. As for our volunteer community, we had to close our campus to volunteer engagement for a while, but I kept in contact with the volunteer community through monthly emails, sometimes bi-weekly depending on what was going on around the mission and social media. I made it personal and added a prayer for our community. The mission is now slowly phasing in volunteer involvement (with all kinds of new precautions & waivers in place) and I am learning how to lead virtual volunteer orientations.

This year, and job looked a lot different than my expectations, but it’s been a great growth year for me personally and the volunteer program. An old proverb says, “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:19 NASB). Sure enough this proverb is true, I had a plan but it’s been God directing each step of the way.

– Perla G., Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia

During the COVID-19 shut down in Florida our shelter was still fully operating to take care of the homeless pets of Marion County Florida. Many of our volunteers did not back down from volunteering!

In order to bring in more animals to our shelter we needed the ones here to be adopted out first or in foster. We put out an urgent plea to the public, as well as our volunteers to assist us with clearing out our shelter.

We were able to get more than half of our shelter animals into foster for several weeks which gave them a quiet, relaxing vacation from the shelter. Some of the shelter pets that went to foster ended up in what we call a “foster fail” situation. This happens when a pet goes to a home to be fostered and the foster grows close to the pet, then ends up adopting it!

We are so grateful for all of our volunteers during these challegning times and the huge impact they made on the homeless pets from our facility.

– Elizabeth E., Humane Society of Marion County

We managed to recruit over 200 volunteers for our Day Out With Thomas event at the Colorado Railroad Museum. As the only Day Out With Thomas (post-COVID) in 2020, our largest event of the year took place outside and required far more volunteer participation than ever before. With over 625 volunteer shifts to fill over 6 days, it was a massive undertaking. But with the help of our community, we pulled it off.

– Danielle R., Colorado Railroad Museum

In the very beginning of the Pandemic shut down, a dozen volunteers got busy making masks for our anticipated reopening, that was our first “remote” opportunity. Because of the pandemic, our Library was not able to host our summer reading program inside our buildings. Volunteers to the rescue!

Working with our Outreach Coordinator we recruited a dozen volunteers to prepare summer reading packets to hand out in July and August at 29 parks or neighborhood locations all over our city. 21 Volunteers participated, most volunteering multiple times, meeting our van at the locations to bring the joy of reading to eager families.

Volunteers continue to support our libraries by assembling activity packets for the wildly popular online STEM programs our librarians present. 35 corporate, University and Friends of the Libraries volunteers worked two very successful “book donation day” events for our Friends of the Library organization. Over 220 patrons dropped off over 400 bags or boxes of media to provide much needed inventory to support the online sales of our Friends organization.

While we certainly won’t report the same number of hours or actual volunteers, we still have much to be proud of! Our volunteers continue to support and engage with the libraries they love!

– Marcia H., Hillsboro Public Library

In spite of the COVID-19 Crisis, so many have wanted to help. We have gone above and beyond our usual offerings in order to secure the welfare of the most vulnerable. We have been blessed with the opportunity to make a positive impact through all of these circumstances and our volunteers helped make it happen.

– Jesabel C., The Salvation Army

This year, for our Reading Services Program, we immediately shifted to virtual reading session between volunteers and clients who are visually impaired. We recruited a volunteer to make outreach calls to clients and shifted to sharing digital artistic content from our partners at Julliard with clients and volunteers to replace the access to the arts that was lost due to the pandemic.

Realizing that virtual communication is here to stay, we are taking this time to increase both volunteer and client knowledge and use of digital communication methods to improve their ability to stay in touch their various communities.

– Cheryl P., Lighthouse Guild International

We have provided food and emergency resources to our community throughout the pandemic. We closed to volunteers for a short time this spring to bring about some amazing changes to the physical space of our building to allow for social distancing and refining efficiency processes in our organization. We brought back a large portion of our volunteer team after participating in a reorientation training.

This year has been a lot of work and we’ve faced many challenges, but in the long run, we will be better for the ways we have adapted to the pandemic.

– Jenny S., Neighbors, Inc.

My team has been exceptionally nimble during Covid, changing our entire program on a dime in March and continually evolving since then. We have kept our Food Pantry staffed, never having to close during the pandemic due to lack of volunteers.

We’ve made over 550 check-in calls to volunteers stepping away during the pandemic and processed over 900 volunteer applications. We’ve stepped in to lend a hand in other areas of the organization, when needed, and done our part to keep our organization running smoothly during this hard time.

I’m really proud of us!

– Lucinda P., People’s Resource Center

Pivoted to encourage more on-line volunteering, like recorded Docent Moments where someone talks about their favorite space or item. This increased our online presence. Transcribing old logs and journals also has more volunteers helping during this time.

While we cannot give guided tours some volunteers are still needed to help with anti-crowd control. So docents that used to give tours are now area monitors to help keep people from crowding together.

– Dave F., New Bedford Whaling Museum

COVID-19 has pushed us all to innovate, rely on each other and live in a state of Power Resilience!

One moment that represents our journey is a remarkable volunteer, Bob, who became saddened by the long wait to see patients he had been able to see weekly pre-COVID. In an effort to bring his wonderful certified pet therapy dog, Bella, to people, he proposed visiting family members when we could not see patients. Bob and Bella are encouraging family members who are not allowed to see their family member in person.

One day Bob and Bella made a visit to a lovely lady who had not been able to see her husband on Hospice services for many weeks. Bella immediately gave her a “hug” that was heart breaking and heart transforming! It was her 2nd “in-person” visitor in 5 months!

– Ruth W., Horizon Hospice and Palliative Care

Despite the trying times right now, and the pandemic we are facing currently our volunteer department has persevered. We were able to adapt relatively quickly with online courses through AZA, and weekly webinars to keep our volunteers engaged, and educated with all zoo activities from a far.

Within the last couple of months we’ve had the wonderful opportunity of bringing a small percentage of volunteers back on campus with new opportunities of exhibit hosting on the front side of the zoo interacting with all of our guest in a more educational role about each exhibit. It has been a huge success with our guests and our number of volunteers are steadily increasing.

We are very optimistic about returning our seasoned volunteers to behind the scene activities at some point in the near future. But we are being very cautious and follow all guidelines set by our zoo, the AZA, and governing parties of our great state of Florida.

All in all we have shown our ability to adapt and continue to support our great Zoo despite any hurdle that we have encountered, and will continue to do so! Thank you!

– Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

During Indiana’s Stay-at-Home Order, The Audio Reading Service totally reinvented the wheel regarding our service to listening customers. 33 of 100 volunteers read their programs remotely. We created two new temporary programs. It was a lot of work, but very rewarding.

One aspect that is particularly gratifying was to witness how certain valuable skill sets of staff and volunteers — that weren’t necessarily obvious in our previous day-to-day workflow — totally kicked into fifth gear to accomplish our plan!

We were able to meet the needs of our listening customers by continuing to provide news and information during a time they needed it most!

– Georgean J., Audio Reading Service/Allen County Public Library

We have been so encouraged by these stories, and we are appreciative to all of the volunteer managers that shared their stories and have remained committed and passionate!

Remember, we’ll be back again next week with more stories to share! Please join us to continue the celebration and show your appreciation!