Category: Volunteering

50 Faces of Volunteers – Bridget Williams

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Nominated by Kayla Paulson with United Way of East Central Iowa in Cedar Rapids

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Bridget is Logistics Coordinator for Green Iowa AmeriCorps. Through her host, Matthew 25, she connected with Linn Area Partners – Active In Disaster (LAP-AID) and was able to see the gap in food security due to lack of public transit and limited access to food pantries. Due to Bridget’s commitment to environmental justice she stepped up to lead the Food Pantry Pick-up Project utilizing volunteers to deliver free food boxes to home bound residents in Linn County and has made over 350 deliveries since its inception. The program works with United Way to secure dedicated volunteers; partners with Olivet Neighborhood Mission to include milk, eggs, meat, bread, produce, and/or shelf stable food in its food boxes; and is collaborating with the Catherine McAuley Center to reduce language barriers and supply culturally appropriate foods to clients of various backgrounds. Now that transit is running again is transitioning the clients to other services and is working to get Cultivate Hope Produce Rescue established as part of Matthew 25’s Healthy Time Check project. This new food distribution program will provide fresh produce in a neighborhood without adequate access to quality food.

Bridget combines creativity and a drive to solve problems with the maturity to build partner relationships and teams. She was vital to filling the food security gap in the first few months of our community’s COVID response.

Bridget Williams

 

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Matthew 25 and United Way of East Central Iowa

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 1 year

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight?

She truly stepped up and filled a gap that other LAP-AID members did not have capacity and bandwidth to take the lead on at that time. She did an amazing job of keeping all the partners engaged throughout the process and was not shy about asking for support when needed. Our community is grateful that she was here and serving as an AmeriCorps member during this time.

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at icvs@iowaeda.com with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Kathy and Tom Peterman

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Nominated by Brittany Appleton with Waypoint in Cedar Rapids

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Kathy and Tom got connected with Waypoint because their granddaughter is the Director of Waypoint’s Housing & Homeless Services and they were looking to give back to the community during their free time.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Kathy and Tom came into the office an average of 8 hours each week. They are the masters of donations, unloading them when they come into the office and thanking donors, while keeping everything organized and easily accessible for staff. This frees up time for staff to focus on client interaction and also makes it easier to find what is needed when items are distributed to clients.

kathy_tom_peterman

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? Waypoint

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 8 months

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight?

 

Kathy and Tom are dedicated, compassionate volunteers who share their time with no expectation of recognition or anything in return. Their support makes a huge impact on our Housing & Homeless Services, and our staff and clients are incredibly grateful for their support.

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at icvs@iowaeda.com with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

50 Faces of Volunteers – Sheila Schultz

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Nominated by Kathy Hutton with St. Stephen’s – a branch of River Bend Food Bank – in Dubuque

Tell us a little about the volunteer (brief bio – student/profession, location in Iowa, etc.):

Sheila Schultz grew up in Dubuque, Iowa and had a career as a teacher. She received her Bachelors Degree, was married and started a family. While raising her family with her husband Buck, she went back to college for her Master’s Degree and still taught school. She taught as St. Joseph’s Catholic School and then switched to the Dubuque Community School system after she received her Master’s Degree. Most of her time at the Dubuque Community School System was teaching at the Central Alternative School with troubled youth. After retirement, Sheila started volunteering more at her church in Dubuque. That was where I met Sheila and she asked if I needed people at the Food Bank. She came to the food bank and continues to be of great value with all her skills. She is motivated by the mission of helping the people in need, which started with the youth she taught at the Central Alternative School. Each week we can expect to have Sheila at the food bank in some capacity for an average of 12 hours. The most important part of Sheila’s volunteer work is how the food bank impacts people because of what we do to help those in need. She also enjoys all the other volunteers and staff. Sheila will step up and do anything she can to help the organization in any way for the mission of feeding people in need. Sheila will do anything from picking up donations to sorting the food, cleaning, scheduling volunteers, filing papers and writing thank-you notes. Everywhere Sheila goes she talks about her activities at the food bank and how it impacts people’s lives; that is what helps bring in more volunteers. Sheila enjoys being out in the community serving the guests because that is where the results of what the food bank does is witnessed. For Sheila, helping to serve and witnessing the guests receiving the food to hearing their stores is by far the best part of all the volunteer work she does. This is the most fulfilling activity to Sheila just because of the happy faces seen.

Sheila Schultz

What is the primary (one or two) organization(s) they serve? St. Stephen’s Food Bank Branch of Riverbend Food Bank

How long have they volunteered with this/these organization(s)? 5 years

Why does this volunteer deserve to be recognized with a 50 Faces of Volunteers spotlight? Sheila is not a standard volunteer she has more energy than a millennial with their power drink. She is an amazing volunteer and her impact is extraordinary. She is part of the tribe that keeps the flow of the mission going. She is essential to the mounting work as we increase our food distribution to the under served population. With our distribution of food facing larger amounts, her skills matter. There are many distinct traits that make Sheila an amazing volunteer. I have seen these first hand each day she volunteers at St. Stephen’s Food Bank where she has helped to create a platform for the organization to grow by 16% in 2018 and 2019. Our tribe consists of some of the most amazing people I know on this planet and Sheila is one of those astonishing people. Sheila is a result driven person with a good strong driven mindset with a cause to generate a major positive impact. Sheila has helped with implementing some of our warehouse procedures after she and I discuss what needs to be done. She has helped with meaningful fund raising and attracting more amazing volunteers. She is driven by the bottom line, which are results. Sheila is passionate and professional. Sheila brings her best to her volunteer effort. Mix that professionalism of hers with passion and the result is impressive. At St. Stephen’s we collaborate with over 65 nonprofit partners that help us accomplish our goal of ending hunger in the tri-state area. With Sheila’s work ethic, professionalism and passion, in her efforts she has helped in numerous ways to better our goals. She has helped implement cleaning schedules to make our distribution center more presentable, she greets our partner agencies and helps them find product, she sorts product and makes sure it is all presentable. Sheila has added all of this volunteer time on top of her life schedule of church volunteering and family commitments. Sheila has a collaborative tribal mindset. St. Stephen’s Food Bank runs on a lean budget. The upside of this is we have thrown open the doors of our organization to invite in others. In fact, we need an entire ecosystem of genius to emerge. Sheila is one of the best volunteers that understands this and works with our non-profit leadership to identify, cultivate and realize highly valuable policies and procedures in what we do at the food bank. I have witnessed this first hand in her duties of coordinating schedules of other volunteers. Her self-driven personality has brought other volunteers into making time commitments to the works of the food bank that is only possible with a vast tribe of amazing volunteers. Sheila makes no excuses. Sheila sticks to her commitments. She has a zero flake factor. If she says she will contribute something specific, she does her absolute best to make it happen. She is a problem solver, organizer and mentor and persists till she finds a way forward. Sheila is a constant champion. Sheila is an amazing volunteer that does not have an off switch. She always finds a way to spread the word. It may be as simple as asking others to follow the organization on Facebook or join in on the volunteer work. She may find a way to bring visibility to the story of the food bank or some of the people the food bank has served. She has strengthened the tribe by enlisting their best abilities. The purpose and passion for the mission integrates into her daily life. Sheila energizes. Sheila is the original energy drink. She makes others feel charged when collaborating with them. When Sheila is with different volunteers in the work environment it is magical, lasting friendships have formed, fun is present and she makes the place feel like family. On occasion she even bakes up a treat to share at break time. With Sheila it’s a match. The most amazing part about Sheila is she thinks less about what she can get from the experience of volunteering and more about what she can contribute. Sometimes there is a mismatch between what the volunteer wants to contribute and what the organization needs. This is not so with Sheila. She always takes the time to listen to what the leadership wants for the organization and helps in any way she is able. Sheila brings a wide range of contributions to the table but the number one being her seasoned skills or raw energy. Another is her contribution to the organization being one of her ongoing commitments. Regardless of the particular contribution or the duration of Sheila’s time and her volunteer presence, her super-sized volunteer work makes her an amazing asset to the St. Stephen’s Food Bank. I am personally delighted we have Sheila and her championing skills at the food bank.

Tell us about a great volunteer! We would love to recognize them as one of our “50 Faces of Volunteers.” Volunteer Iowa will feature nominees as they are received. Contact Volunteer Iowa at icvs@iowaeda.com with “50 Faces” in the subject line for more information.

Volunteering While on Social Security Benefits – submitted by Disability Benefits Help

Top Tips to Know When Volunteering on Social Security Disability Benefits

If you’re currently receiving Social Security disability benefits, you may be wondering if you’re allowed to volunteer without jeopardizing your benefits and health insurance. The answer is—yes! Thousands of people on Social Security disability volunteer every year. Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and feel good about the work you’re doing. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re considering volunteering:

1. Volunteer with an Accredited Organization

While you don’t have to necessarily volunteer with a nonprofit, you want to make sure you are not doing any volunteer work that would be otherwise paid. For example, if you “volunteer” at a law firm and file paperwork, your benefits could be in jeopardy, as you’d be performing duties most secretaries do. Cleaning up a park with a group on a Saturday, however, would be fine.

2. Consider Your Disability

If you’re receiving Social Security disability benefits for a spinal cord disorder, but volunteer at an organization where you’re required to lift heavy packages, it’s possible the SSA will re-evaluate your claim and determine if you’re really ill enough to receive benefits. You should always ensure the tasks you do while you volunteer is suitable for your disability. If it’s too much work, you can always speak with your volunteer coordinator to find something that’s a better fit for your skillset!

3. Take it Easy

Much like point #2, you should not volunteer for a significantly long time. Volunteering for a couple of hours per week is of course fine, but if you were to volunteer 80 hours per week, you’d raise some red flags at the SSA. The SSA would likely ask, “if she can volunteer for that long, why isn’t she able to find a suitable desk job instead?”

4. Don’t Volunteer for a Family Member

Again, it’s important to volunteer with a local and accredited nonprofit in your area, like the United Way. If you’re claiming to volunteer for a family-owned business, the SSA may assume that you’re actually being paid for your work and investigate your case again.

While it may seem like there’s a lot you need to watch out for, volunteering really is easy while you’re receiving disability benefits. When you’re working with a great nonprofit there is no reason to be concerned that the SSA will revoke your benefits. Cleaning up a river, reading to children, feeding the elderly, and caring for pets are just a handful of completely acceptable volunteer activities. Just be sure to not overexert yourself or perform any duties that are outside the scope of typical volunteer experience! When you volunteer, you’ll have the satisfaction of helping others that need aid and making a difference in your community. If you have any further questions regarding your Social Security and volunteer work, you can call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213 or schedule an appointment at your local SSA office.

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AmeriCorps Youth Launch Members Throw End of Summer Community Night

2019 Lamoni graduates Dixie Dykens and Kallie Kinney chose to spend their summer after graduation as AmeriCorps Youth Launch members. Together they wrote a grant and planned an End-of-Summer Community Night in the Park that turned out over and above any of their expectations. The evening began with a 5K Color Run and a Mini for the Minis Triathalon for kids 11 years of age or younger. A free meal  was served to over 250 people. Games and activities such as a watermelon eating contest, tye dye t-shirts, face painting, twister and hopscotch painted on the grass, water guns, donuts on a string, and a 3-legged race were enjoyed by “kids” of all ages.

Community Partners participated in the event as Lamoni Parks and Rec cooked and provided the free meal; LoLoSnow provided samples of shaved ice; Southern Iowa RSVP volunteers served the meal; Lamoni Fire Department brought trucks and a Slip and Slide; and Decatur County Natural Resources provided an outdoor movie in the park at dusk.

Post submitted by Shirley Kessel, Graceland University AmeriCorps Youth Development Specialist Shirley Kessel