Featured Projects

Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey

What is the name of your team?

Easing Hunger

How long has the team been together

For eight months.

What is your team’s goal/mission?

After Superstorm Sandy, the area we serve in Ocean County, NJ was devastated.  Our agency lost approx. 100 volunteers because they needed to relocate or they were concentrating on rebuilding their own homes and lives.  At the same time, our calls for help increased because they elderly lost their traditional sources of help when their family members moved or their faith communities were unable to provide help.  The most requested service that we were struggling to fill requests for was grocery shopping.  Our traditional way to provide this service is 1 volunteer to 1 client who shops every 2 weeks.  We needed another way to approach this problem and increase our capacity.

What are your team’s activities?

We were fortunate to receive a grant from OceanFirst Foundation and the NJ Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to purchase 2 computers and begin on-line shopping for the elderly from our office.  The delivery charges were covered by the grant so there was no financial burden on the client.  The Easing Hunger team is now shopping on-line for 3 clients each since it is less time-consuming rather than the 1 to 1 match.  They are able to shop either from our office or from their home.

How were the many volunteers do you have and how were they recruited?

We have 12 volunteers who are assigned to shop for 3 clients each.  We are in the process of recruiting more team members.   They were recruited from email blasts, church/synagogue bulletin blurbs, church/synagogue recruitment efforts and our facebook page.  When our volunteers register, they also put “special skills” on our forms.  We targeted those volunteers who noted they are proficient on computers and also wanted to shop.

Please describe the accomplishments of the team.  Is the team successfully addressing the identified issue(s) or problem(s)?

  • We are performing on-line shopping for 30 clients on a 2 week regular basis.
  • Because of this effort, Shop Rite who has a big on-line presence in our area has become involved with our agency and now sponsors events.
  • The Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund thought this was a great pilot program and would be helpful to other areas affected by disasters.  They have requested a replication guide be sent to them.
  • We presented this program to Kessler Foundation which supports disabled individuals.  They also would like to replicate this model.
  • This program has allowed us to recruit younger, working volunteers since they are able to order on-line from their homes, on weekends or after work.

What challenges have you encountered and how have these been addressed?

  • At first, we were asking for credit card information and using this information when we placed the on-line order.  This was very difficult because credit card numbers wouldn’t be accurate or they would expire.  We now order and have the client pay when delivery is made.
  • Learning curve to have client’s shopping list be accurate and translate to on-line ordering.  Learned we need to be really specific when making the list.
  • Great transition to have volunteers order in our office and then “graduate” to ordering from their homes.    We were able to do this when we no longer required credit card information.
  • Team leader as usual is critical.  Team leader trained new volunteers on computer system, made sure clients were assigned and communicated with Shop Rite when discrepancies in orders arose.

What are some of the lessons you have learned in resolving these challenges?

  • Like any new pilot project this took a lot of staff time to get up and running.  Need to plan for this staff time at start up.
  • The elderly clients were willing to share their credit card information with us after we established credibility and trust.  We initially thought this would be a road block because of fear of scams.
  • Lovely relationships formed between the volunteer on-line shopper and their client even though they never met, just communicated by phone to get shopping list every 2 weeks.    We also provided additional support services to these individuals once volunteers got to know them better and learned their other needs.
  • Strong team leader essential or staff time will be unmanageable.
  • This particular service is unique to our area.  Service would not be hard to replicate for other nonprofits.

Family Resource Centers of Crestwood Children’s Center – Skip Generations Program

Team Name:

Skip Generations WisdomWork Team

Team Specifics:

Number of Team members: 6
Team has been together for:
 5 years

Team Mission/Goal:

Through the Skip Generations program, Family Resource Centers of Crestwood Children’s Center provides information, education, and support to grandparents and other caregivers in the community to strengthen their ability to care for the children in their care. The goal of the Skip Generations program is to strengthen families by providing support to grandparents and relatives who are the primary caregivers for children whose parents are unable to assume responsibility for them. The program offers encouragement and skills to increase their confidence and competence as caregivers. In addition, the program assists in problem solving, interfacing with community systems, and helps to develop a network of support to reduce isolation. The purpose of our self-directed WisdomWork Team is to utilize the skills, interests, and experiences of volunteers, age 55 and older, to develop strategies to recruit participants from our community into the three levels of participation in the Skip Generations Program, including center-based groups and peer mentor home visits. Crestwood Children’s Center is an affiliate of Hillside Family of Agencies, a family and children services organization that provides child welfare, mental health, youth development, juvenile justice, special education, and developmental disabilities services across Central and Western New York and Prince George’s County, MD.

Team Activities:

  • Recruit new grandparents or kinship caregivers to the Skip Generations Program through personal outreach efforts
  • Provide a regular presence at Family Court and our County’s Department of Human Services in order to familiarize individuals with Skip Generations as a resource to them
  • Actively participate in the SW Community Roundtable to raise awareness of Skip Generations among the service providers serving our local families
  • Distribute program information at neighborhood and community-wide festivals, school open houses, and family events
  • Strategize around new venues for getting the word out about Skip Generations
  • Assess the effectiveness of the outreach efforts

Team Member Details:

There are currently 6 active members.  Most have had a history of participation in the Skip Generations program and indicated interest in helping to communicate this opportunity to others in the community.  They were all interviewed and made aware of the expectations of their involvement on the Team.

Team Accomplishments:

The WisdomWork Team has successfully enhanced public awareness of Skip Generations through all the outreach efforts mentioned above.  They have brought a personal “face” to the program, effectively conveying the impact of the support and resources available through the program.  They have helped to articulate the need for and potential of such services.  They have succeeded in drawing in members of our community who are kinship caregivers into Skip Generations.  Their outreach efforts continually address the reality that many caregivers are isolated and are not aware of the supports that are available to them.

Challenges:

The challenges are many and ongoing, but of note:

  • Outreach and recruitment are time-intensive and demand persistence and endurance – and are often met with few immediate results.
  • It is difficult to maintain a steady schedule of recruitment with an older volunteer base (many of whom are kinship caregivers themselves with challenging calendars and often prone to illnesses), especially when the weather is inclement and driving hazardous.

We have tried over the years to maintain a healthy enough number of volunteers on the Team, so we have a big enough pool from which to draw. We often pair team members based on transportation needs. We have provided training and ongoing support and supervision. We have an experienced volunteer coordinator who helps to facilitate the regular monthly meetings of the Team.

Lessons Learned:

  • Personal experience as a kinship caregiver is valuable in communicating an effective outreach message.
  • Strategizing, planning and support are best achieved in the context of regular group exchange.
  • Accountability and sharing of successes serve to further motivate and encourage involvement.
  • There is always a need to invite in new members to the WisdomWork Team, so a parallel process of recruitment needs to occur.

Forward Chicago – Building a Community For All Ages

Area of Impact:

Community for all Ages

Project or Program Specifics:

Forward Chicago strives to keep residents in and around Chicago’s 47th Ward to remain active, involved, and influential as they age in our community. We use resident teams as the foundation of our organization and all work together to make our community the best it can be – for all.

Team Specifics:

Number of Team members: 9

Team has been together for: 1 year

Recruitment techniques:

Personal invitation, invited to join at events, call to action on website

Team Activities:

Forward Chicago has worked over the past year to make a significant impact in our community, and is truly growing a grassroots community initiative to support all residents aging in our community. From wellness, to art for all ages, to convening community residents to create a blueprint for aging in our community – we are involving residents in new ways.

We seek to highlight the wealth of resources in our community, and ensure that all neighbors have the opportunity to participate and benefit. We do not replicate existing resources, where resources exit – we partner and spread the word. If members want a book club – we work with the local bookstore to promote the book groups already in place.

We bring residents together, and are building a network of residents, businesses, organizations, and leaders who participate in creating a future vision for our community, and involve them in the building of that vision. Together, we are creating a community for all ages.

Team accomplishments:

– Together, created the vision for Forward Chicago and our ideal community for our future
– Formed organization and filed for non-profit status
– Created leadership team
– Hosted community-wide wellness fair with over 400 participants
– Trained residents as bloggers and storytellers about their community
– Engaged over 2,00 residents in 2012

Lessons Learned:

– An invitation to join from participants is the most powerful advertising, and creates the most compelling message
– Share your successes
– Make sure to have both written and electronic outreach and publications
– Team members LOVE to talk about their successes
– It’s not about aging, is is about community!

Next Steps:

– Building more volunteer teams based on resident’s areas of interest
– Training volunteers
– Growing membership
– Securing additional funding

Website

 

Newark Senior Center Volunteer Team

Area of Impact:

PCN helps to build the capacity of emergent nonprofits in the State of Delaware. We assist managers to design and complete short-term projects that they would otherwise not have the time or resources to do on their own. PCN provides the expertise and person-power that many small nonprofits are simply unable to afford.

Project or Program Specifics:

PCN solicits project proposals from area nonprofits. Members review the proposals and then decide if they are a good match for the current skill-set of the group. If the project seems appropriate, a representative from PCN meets with the nonprofit manager to further define the need and PCN’s ability to help. If PCN accepts the project, a team is assigned to it and a work plan is developed.
PCN is a self-directed team. We conduct ourselves in accordance with a team charter that was developed in the early years of the group’s existence. The group has two officers: a President who facilitates the meetings and acts as the group’s spokesperson and a Secretary who takes meeting minutes. Other members may serve in ad hoc roles if needed. While the volunteer manager of the senior center played a more active role in the group’s development during the initial years, PCN today is entirely self-directed. Decisions of any importance are made by the entire group at regular meetings through a process of consensus.

Team Specifics:

Number of Team members: PCN’s membership averages around 8 to 12 members and will vary a good bit during the year due to health problems and the work schedules.

Team has been together for: 6 years

Recruitment techniques:

Membership in PCN is open to anyone willing to put their skills to use in helping a nonprofit. While many members have specialized professional skills the most important characteristic we look for in a new member is an interest is curiosity and a willingness to learn new things. The membership of PCN has remained fairly consistent since its inception. Many of the current and past members have heard about the group through membership in the Newark Senior Center, however, some members were also referred from RSVP, the State Office of Volunteerism and online volunteer opportunity clearinghouses.

Team Activities:

The entire PCN membership meets on a bi-weekly basis. At these meetings members working on different projects will report on the progress they are making and solicit advice from other members regarding the challenges they are encountering. The status of a project as either active, inactive or completed is determined by the assigned team in consultation with the entire group. Once a project is completed the appropriate organizational contact is asked to complete a project evaluation. These evaluations are reviewed by the entire membership.

Team accomplishments:

Over its 6 year history, PCN has completed close to 20 projects with very positive evaluations from the organizations being assisted. In 2011 the group received a Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award from the Delaware State Office of Volunteerism.

Lessons Learned:

1. Retired professionals enjoy working on short-term projects that they have had a hand in designing themselves and can easily fit into their busy schedules.
2. The skills and energy of retired professionals can enable emergent nonprofit managers get work done that would otherwise never be accomplished.
3. Self-directed team model is an excellent structure for supporting retired professionals to continue contributing to their communities

Next Steps:

Continuing to grow and increase our capacity.