In this time of pandemic and economic upheaval, community service agencies are stretched to the limit. Volunteers are needed more than ever for a widening range of services. And as the commonwealth celebrates Virginia Public Service Week, more citizens may be looking to help.
As a response, the University of Virginia has established a virtual Volunteer Center to help connect UVA employees who wish to volunteer their time, skills and compassion with the needs of local service agencies that are working overtime to help community members cope.
“UVA is a truly caring community, and we’ve heard from lots of folks who would like to share their time, energy and expertise with the broader community, in the service of people who are suffering through this crisis,” Louis Nelson, vice provost for academic outreach, said. “Working with colleagues across the University, we have set up the Volunteer Center to coordinate involvement between our employee volunteers and the needs of community outreach organizations.”
The Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Outreach, UVA HR, UVA Health’s Office of Community Partnerships, the University’s Equity Center and the Office of Economic Development have partnered to establish the employee Volunteer Center.
Its purpose is to help direct volunteers toward critical recovery needs in areas requiring long-term commitments; to provide guidelines for health and safety while volunteering; to connect volunteers with specific expertise with agencies having specialized needs; and to coordinate donations of supplies with agencies that could make best use of those offers.
Featured organizations include the United Way of Greater Charlottesville, the Red Cross, the regional Emergency Operations Center, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Charlottesville Meals on Wheels and others. The Volunteer Center website includes links to local partner websites and additional information.
Nelson said that many UVA volunteers might be particularly suited to providing support in such areas as grant writing, marketing, accounting, communications, language translation and technology support.
“We’re working to help people become engaged, to use their expertise to address complex and emerging challenges,” Ellen Blackmon, coordinator for the Volunteer Center, said. “We want to help match skills with the needs of our communities in the region.”
She noted that multilingual volunteers are particularly needed in Charlottesville’s diverse community, to serve on hotlines for financial aid and other emergency resources. Language needs include Spanish, Arabic, Nepali, Swahili, Farsi, Burmese and others.
Many of the volunteer opportunities are seeking a long-term commitment of personal time. UVA provides eight hours (at the Medical Center) or 16 hours of community service leave time to employees. Volunteer work conducted during work hours would need to be approved by managers and community service time applied.