by erin thursby
People really do want to give back to their communities, but with squeezed pockets and busy schedules, it can be tough to put aside time and money. If you’d like to volunteer but only have a day or a few hours to spare, Hands On Jacksonville is the organization for you. They work somewhat like a direct temp agency of volunteers for different organizations, providing, among other things, a pool of volunteers for nearly every charity in Jacksonville.
They used to be Volunteer Jacksonville, but with the name change there came other changes.
“We’re doing more than connecting people to organizations, we’re equipping and mobilizing people,” says Judy Smith, CEO of Hands On Jacksonville.
That means that they not only provide the volunteers, but also help organize projects, most of which are completed within a day. This ensures that volunteers have the best experience possible and that they feel they’ve done something to help a person or the community.
What a volunteer can commit to has changed, which is why Smith says the Hands On model is much better for today’s world than the old model Volunteer Jacksonville was using. Today’s volunteer, she says “want[s] things that have a start and a finish. They don’t want to commit themselves to four hours a day three days a week for the next hundred years…They can’t. There just isn’t time to [do that] in the information age.” Hands On provides the flexibility and fulfillment that the modern volunteer looks for.
Go to their website, www.handsonjacksonville.org, and you can scope out their calendar, either volunteering for stuff you’d be good at, or looking at days you’d be available. I found the process to be really easy. Once I registered, I signed up for 6 Days, 6 Ramps, a project that builds ramps for the wheelchair bound. I got to wrangle a nail gun, and my experiences in repairing fences on my family’s horse farm actually helped. And, at the end of the day, I had the rewarding experience of watching a smiling man descend the ramp, grateful that we’d built a way for him to get out of the house on his own.
I only did one day of volunteering because my deadline was looming and I had other appointments to keep, but those who are up for more of a commitment can sign up for more, even becoming project leaders. If you have a degree or a talent, make sure you mention it. Hands On Jacksonville wants to utilize the skills you have, whether it’s creating art, social networking, organizing an event and even accounting.
“When an organization is limited in their thinking about what volunteers can do,” says Smith “the volunteers aren’t going to have an optimized experience in volunteering…Volunteers don’t want to lick envelopes. They want to change lives.”
Hands On accomplishes these positive changes in three areas. “We want to resource schools, alleviate poverty and we want to preserve the earth….We like to call it Hands On Earth, Hands On Schools, Hand on Community.”
Whether you decide to volunteer during your next staycation or on a weekend, volunteering can help connect you to the community. The volunteer rate here in Jacksonville is about twice the national average. Lending a helping hand and being a part of a volunteer organization can help you learn more about this city and its people on a wider scale than your morning commute and job will.
To contact Hands On Jacksonville call 332 -6767 or go to their website www.handsonjacksonville.org. The calendar of volunteer opportunities constantly changes, so be sure to check it out regularly.
Volunteering without the Commitment
by erin thursby