Volunteer Ocoee connects workers, needs
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Jan 28, 2014 | 659 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Individual interests, skills, passions and talents can be used to meet the needs connected with poverty, literacy, natural disasters, hunger and more in the community through service opportunities found on Volunteer Ocoee.

The online system connects community members with community needs at the Cleveland Interagency Council Monday afternoon, according to Director of Volunteer Services Jaynese Waddell.

Volunteers can go to www.volunteerocoee.org to search through local service projects. Opportunities can be found by searching for a particular topic, a specific area of interest, a population served, an organization or a location.

Waddell said the centralized location of the volunteer opportunities cuts down on the uncertainty of those looking to help out.

The website goes one step beyond to ensure volunteers do not forget their commitments.

“Once they are actually signed up, they receive reminders,” Waddell said. “It reminds them, ‘Hey, you signed up for this. It is really important you show up.’”

A follow-up survey asks questions to ensure better volunteer opportunities in the future.

Anyone interested in volunteering is welcome to use the site. Waddell said students in both college and high school might find the tool especially useful. All service opportunities found and completed through the site will be recorded online.

All of the volunteer hours can be stored on the site. Waddell described it as the equivalent of a civic engagement resume. These hours can be used as examples of community service for scholarships and school service requirements.

Community agency representatives were reminded to upload service opportunities to the website.

Waddell emphasized the importance of the two-sided relationship. Agenc­­ies alert the public to needs and local residents sign up to make a difference.

“The Volunteer Ocoee Center is a resource for nonprofits, as well as government agencies,” Waddell said before offering the animal shelter and parks and recreation department as examples. “So it is not necessarily nonprofits.”

Volunteer opportunities can be posted in real time.

“So if they need 10 volunteers for a specific opportunity, then as somebody signs up it subtracts [from the needed number],” Waddell said. “So you won’t end up with way more volunteers than you need, or way less.”

All communication takes place within the system. Volunteer coordinators may also put up as many service opportunities as needed. Waddell said anything within the next day to a year can be uploaded.

The United Way’s Center for Nonprofits in Chattanooga offered a portion of its volunteer site to be used by Bradley County. Waddell said the price would have otherwise been very expensive.

Bradley County’s portion of the site is still in its early stages as residents and agencies alike learn of the resource. One of the goals is for the county and city school systems to join the site.

“If you have contacts with the schools, share this with them. We really want to make this grow in the school system on both sides: to get students to volunteer and use the services; but also for schools to post volunteer opportunities,” Waddell said. “If you need a closet cleaned out — whatever that might look like for the school. Help us get that out to the schools.” 

Additional information can be found by visiting the Volunteer Ocoee Center website.