“Empowering NobleLeaders” at the National Service-Learning Conference

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Apr 03, 2014 @ 08:53 AM

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For the past quarter century, the National Youth Leadership Council has brought together youth and adults from all over the world and all different disciplines to share ideas, skills, passions, and their service-learning experiences at the National Service-Learning Conference. The yearly conferences are held in various host cities, with different co-host organizations, and continues to grow in participant number as well as prestige of keynote speaker and program leaders every year. This years 25th annual MONUMENTAL conference April 9th to 12th will prove to be one of the biggest and most exciting yet. The conference will be held for the first time in Washington D.C., a city whose international network and incredible civic engagement has been a major motivation for this year’s MONUMENTAL theme. The conference will take full advantage of the unique service, programming, and networking opportunities our nation’s capitol has to offer.  

All conference workshops and plenary sessions will take place at the historic Washington Marriott Wardman park, unless otherwise indicated in the posted schedule. Various keynote speakers include Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Supreme Court Justice, Arne Duncan, ninth U.S. Secretary of Education, and Minh Dang, White House Champion of Change as a national leader and in human trafficking and child abuse. Youth leaders in service are equally involved in the preparation and participation as their adult counterparts and the conference will spotlight some of the most inspirational, motivated, and change-making young people as featured speakers, program organizers, and session leaders. Highlighted conference events include Capitol Hill Day, a truly unique opportunity for adult and student leaders to advocate for youth as solutions to today’s toughest challenges at home and abroad by meeting with legislators and Congress members. The goal of NYLC and Capitol Hill Day is to convene hundreds of youth advocates, as well as provide them the support and opportunity to meet with Congressional offices, to educate policy-makers about the importance of collaborating with young people to incite real change in their communities.

Students engaged in volunteer service.

Another highlighted event of this year’s conference is the Day of Service: A Celebration of Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) on Saturday April 12th. All attendees are encouraged to give back to the D.C. community and put into practice some of the service learning skills and initiatives they have just learned about in the days prior at the NSLC. The Day of Service will be held on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial steps and includes several different ways to become engaged and have fun, including direct service projects, networking with community members and local nonprofits, and opportunities to hear from community leaders. Partnering organizations such as the Peace Corps, D.C. Habitat for Humanity, Earth Force, generationOn, and Special Olympics Project UNIFY will be present to hone the energy and inspiration cultivated by all conference attendees, speakers, and leaders. Youth Service America (YSA) is the founder and chief organizer of GYSD, the largest service event in the world and the only day of service dedicated to children and youth, which is held each year over a weekend in April (April 11th to 13th for 2014) in more than 100 countries on six continents. As the conference’s co-host, YSA aims to bring this monumental and international service event to the 2014 MONUMENTAL NSLC and Washington D.C. in order to address environmental issues, health and inclusion needs, and educational disconnects of the surrounding community. GYSD is both a celebration and mobilization of service-oriented youth, sharing the same focus and motivation as the annual National Service Learning Conference.

Whether you are a returning conference attendee or newcomer, young person or adult, student or teacher, administrator or non-profit organization, researcher or consultant on service learning and youth leadership, the NSLC’s multiple day and concurrent program schedule enables any type of attendee to personalize their conference and design experiences tailored to their own needs and passions. The educational sessions, discussion groups, interactive workshops, and featured speakers will provide both youth and adults the tools, resources, ideas, and motivation to enhance their service learning practices as well as improve their school, organization, and community. With the wide variety of program topics and types, anyone can become engaged in and inspired by the NSLC.

NobleHour is pleased to again be a sponsor of this year’s National Service Learning Conference. And we are excited to present an interactive discussion-based workshop on how to use service learning to empower students to become Changemakers will certainly prove beneficial for coordinators, teachers, and students to increase their understanding and value of applying what is learned in the classroom to the community. We will focus on how to effectively implement service learning projects with high school and college students to teach Social Entrepreneurship, Civic Engagement, and Student Leadership. Through group discussion and interactive presentation, we plan to facilitate the sharing of service learning experiences among participants. We hope to share our expertise and experience with the audience and together discuss effective strategies to increase students’ engagement, and enhance their learning, in the classroom and beyond.

You don’t want to miss this year’s National Service Learning Conference in Washington D.C. or the Global Youth Service Day taking place all over the world. Find out how to get involved with one of the hundreds of projects or if GYSD is already coming to a region near you. Even if you cannot attend this year’s exciting conference, there are many ways to stay connected and informed of the NSLC’s happenings through facebook, twitter, or the soon to be available NSLC mobile app.

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community service, social entrepreneurship, Monumental, outreach, community engagement, k12

Service Reflections: Tips for Faculty and Students

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 09:47 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Service Reflections

Thank you for joining us for another “Empowering NobleLeaders” Blog with Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan.

Reflection in life, especially when positive, is almost always beneficial. The act of reflection can increase feelings of self-perception personal purpose, and community awareness, as well as increase understanding as to one's role in the greater community. We would like to share with you the importance of reflection on service experiences and offer some insight for both faculty and students on how to do service reflections.  Reflection is an integral component of volunteer service.

While a student is volunteering, the service experience can become more meaningful through constant questioning of motivations, asking why one is helping, and keeping those ideas at the forefront of their mind. A student may maintain their motivation to help by keeping track of both the work they do, as well as their initial and ongoing reactions to their service activities. Reflection before, during, and after a service experience is key, to set goals, and to remember and document observations, emotions, and activities. The most important reflection may come after when the student connects their individual experience to the bigger picture, whether it’s a wider community or national/international issue, cultural or environmental cause, or institutional motive. With reflection and further research, a student will gain deeper understanding of oneself, their community, and society. The more one reflects on their volunteer experiences, the more one knows what they like, dislike, and can identify personal strengths. Additionally, students can then use their service reflections to decide how to channel their experiences into greater action or next steps, which can be beneficial both for the individual (e.g., explore new passions or possible career choices) and the community (e.g., organizing one river clean-up to be an ongoing project with other students and community members in the area). 

How to do Service Reflections: 

For students volunteering, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine. As you begin to look back on your work, here are some helpful ways to take stock and connect to the bigger picture. 

Get started with three easy questions:

What? So what? and Now what? These questions are commonly paired with community service to help participants think about how to channel their experiences into action or next steps. Answer them on your own or with other volunteers. 

What? 

How would you describe the actual work you’ve been doing? What different types of situations have you been involved in and learned from? Whether it’s playing with kids or talking to an elderly person or filing hospital records, describe your day-to-day work. 

So What? 

What did these actions mean? Who did they impact? How did they impact you? How did they affect the community you worked with? How did they contribute to the larger impact your organization (or you) is making? 

Now what? 

Now that you’ve done your service, what are you going to do next? Are there other channels of involvement? What else would you like to know about your site or issue? How will you take this experience and put it to use helping others? What ripple effect will your experiences make for yourself and others? 

How to promote service reflections and service learning for faculty: 

Reflection is a key component of service learning in and out of the classroom. It can be accomplished in many different avenues that students can choose for themselves to fit their learning and creative styles. Encourage students to explore these styles and decide how they would like to record and reflect on their volunteer experience

Each time a student volunteers, it is beneficial to take a few minutes to make notes about what they did, what they learned, and how the experience impacted them. These notes will be useful for future reflecting on experiences as well as for possible use in creating a final presentation for a class. NobleHour has an work reflection tool for students exactly for this purpose.  

Engaging in conversation with others (e.g., friends, professors, family) to explain what the student has been doing and why it is important to them is another way to reflect. With a volunteer supervisor’s permission, a student may be able to take photos and document their adventures in service (there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and use these visuals later for reflection and sharing. NobleHour enables students to share their photos, videos, and reflections using the Contribute and Share tool.  Faculty members should encourage student reflection.

One of the main goals of service learning is that students will continue or expand upon their community service even after the final project is done. If students are interested in learning more about their cause or organization, people at the volunteer site are great resources for other contacts and groups that are doing similar work and organizing similar events. 

To maximize the service learning curriculum, components of reflection throughout the semester for students should be interspersed in the syllabus. Class discussion, journal entry writing, online posts, article critiques on surrounding service topics, and a final demonstration or project of the students’ volunteer experiences are wonderful and diverse ways to get students engaged and thinking about their experiences.  

Teachers can guide students' reflection processes in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: discussion, role play, and journaling

Students are encouraged to reflect on their experience and:

  • Describe what happened.
  • Examine the difference made.
  • Discuss thoughts and feelings.
  • Place experience in a larger contect.
  • Consider project improvements.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Identify questions.
  • Encourage comments from partners and recipients.
  • Receive feedback.

To fulfill one of her global health minor requirements in college, Liz took a course called Core Issues in Global Health: Community Health Practice for Refugees. The professor employed a Community Based Service Learning syllabus guideline which included student-led discussions, lectures, presentations, several community guest speakers, papers, posters, and a community engagement project. The class concluded with each student creating a material (paper, art, video, or article) that described their community refugee experience and also would benefit the organization. The professor made it a class requirement to get out into the surrounding community and see for themselves the information they learned about. Liz's work as an after school tutor with Fugee’s Family outside of Emory every week for one semester created meaning for the statistics and health disparities they were learning about for refugee populations in America. She is now able to look back over her paper and final project, and remember how engaged she felt both in class and with the young refugee soccer players at the Fugee’s school house. 

Service learning and service reflections are valuable student and teacher tools and provide numerous opportunities for personal growth and community service. The more these ideas and actions are incorporated into classrooms, from K-12 to higher education, the better students, communities, and the world will be.

Tune in next time for a discussion of the power of volunteering in diverse environments and with diverse people.

 

"Writing in the Rapids" by Julie Jordan Scott is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Topics: service learning, volunteering, experience, abroad, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, high school, community service, engaged learning, learning strategies, community connections, alternative spring breaks, reflection

Surviving the Holidays with Your College Student

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Jan 02, 2014 @ 01:09 PM


They’re BACK!  Our college students are home for winter break and they’ve brought a lot of baggage with them! Enjoy that first great big smile of recognition at the airport, followed by a wonderful hug and kiss. They’ve come home with their bags stuffed, including a few non-tangibles – that new-found sense of independence, an “air” of maturity peppered with attitude, a new curfew time, and of course at least two loads of dirty clothes! The first 24 hours are the best for me, but do they really need four to five weeks off for the holidays? I mean, even my husband only gets the week off between Christmas and New Year’s and I think that’s very generous. High school and elementary school students go back right after New Year's. So what am I going to do with two college students till mid-January? Get them up and out of the house before noon to share some of that youthful energy helping others.

Many organizations are looking for extra help during the holidays. Whether it’s collecting food for shelters or helping serve holiday meals to the homeless, have your college or high school student take a break from texting, shopping, hanging out, or playing video games and spread some holiday cheer. Start with your own city’s website. In Chicago, the city’s service initiative is called One Good Deed Chicago. The program lists opportunities to volunteer and support the diverse non-profits in the city. Has your student put on the freshman 15? Sign them up to help shovel snow for the elderly for a great workout!

New York City’s service website has hundreds of listings including tutoring, serving meals at shelters, and teaching seniors about the Internet.

In addition to city and state government websites, you can also check out your local chapters of the United Way, YMCA,  and the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army in Williamsburg, Virginia, needs bell ringers through December 24. To quote Buddy the Elf – “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” According to their website, volunteers can sing carols, play an instrument, and of course ring a bell! In the midst of all the commercialism, your good-hearted son or daughter can remind others to share and care about people in their community. If it's too cold to ring the bell outside, you can also create your own virtual red kettle fundraiser!

The Greater Chicago Area, Northern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana Division of the Salvation Army also offers mobile alerts to let you know about opportunities to help in your area. 

Make sure to also check out some amazing volunteer opportunities listed on the NobleHour website. There are thousands of listings all over the United States, ranging from visiting nursing homes, volunteering at schools, or sorting and packaging food at local food banks. Find the true meaning of the holidays by getting your student excited about serving others.

If your son or daughter just wants to nest and watch every old holiday movie during their college break, then get those idle hands working. Even someone with all thumbs can make a no-sew fleece blanket! Blankets can be donated to local homeless shelters or you can contact your local chapter of Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need. Their website provides a variety of patterns including quilts and afghans.

Knots of Love

If you and your child like to knit, spend some quiet, quality time together knitting caps for cancer patients. Knots of Love donates caps to men and women who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy treatment, burn accidents, brain surgery and head trauma patients, as well as individuals with alopecia.

At the point where you can’t take your college student acting like a guest in his own home anymore, it’s time to call in the big guns – grandma and grandpa! A little quality time with them will make everyone happier! Boost their ego by asking them to help their grandparents with a few technology lessons. DoSomething.org’s Grandparents Gone Wired campaign encourages young adults to use their online skills to help seniors get connected. Spend some time with gramps setting up a twitter account, or show grandma how to use Facetime and Facebook on her cell phone and laptop! Call your local nursing home to see if you can help residents there too. The campaign runs through January 21, and also offers an opportunity to win a $10,000 scholarship! The time spent together is a priceless gift.

describe the imageIf your student is always on the go and the thought of being home for four to five weeks will drive you both crazy, then consider a service trip to round out the winter break. All Hands Volunteers has a number of opportunities available, including Project Detroit, an effort to help those in the greater Detroit area recover from damaging floods that occurred this past August. Over 200 homes in the Detroit metro area have been mucked, gutted and sanitized. Experience isn't necessary. Trained supervisors are on hand to assist volunteers with a variety of tasks

Last year, volunteers focused on rebuilding the homes and communities affected by Superstorm Sandy and also responded to the devastation left by the earthquake and typhoon in the Philippines

Visit the All Hands Volunteers website to complete an application, as well as determine available dates.Project Bohol The organization provides three simple meals, basic accommodations, and basic logistics to ensure a positive and productive experience. Volunteers must cover their own travel expenses and meals on days off. The organization has a strict minimum age policy and cannot accept volunteers under the age of 15 (14 in the Philippines). All 16 and 17 year olds must be accompanied with a responsible adult. 

There is no minimum or maximum time commitment, and the organization does not charge a participation fee. Volunteers can come for a day or a couple of months. The organization wants to make it as easy as possible for people to volunteer and make a difference.

So, before you know it, you’ll be sending your son or daughter back to school with a duffel bag filled with clean laundry. While you’ll be happy to get back to your quiet routine, you’ll might also be counting the days until Spring Break! Don’t worry, we’ll come up with a few ideas to help you then too! 

Photos courtesy of Knots of Love and All Hands Volunteers.

Topics: Food Banks, abroad, winter break, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, community service, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, nonprofit, scholarships

Six Ways to Throw Holiday Parties with a Purpose

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Sat, Dec 14, 2013 @ 08:49 AM

It’s that time of year. Seems like there are multiple parties every week between now and New Year’s Day. Cookie exchanges, office parties, tree trimming parties, ugly holiday sweater parties, neighborhood get-togethers, family events, New Year’s Eve and don’t forget Festivus for the Rest of Us!

‘Tis the season to be jolly and spread good cheer with friends and family, but how about your community? This year why not have a holiday party with a purpose – one that shares good will to all men, women and children?

Let’s face it. While we may love getting gifts, we really don’t need one more candle, another box of candy, or a tin of popcorn. As the saying goes – it’s better to give than to receive. So in the spirit of the season, here are six simple ideas to truly enhance your holiday parties.

Pajama Program1. Instead of Secret Santa, collect new pajamas and books.

The Pajama Program provides new pajamas and new books to children in need. Millions of children live in poverty and don’t know the comfort and security of a simple bedtime ritual. Many live in group homes or temporary shelters and have never even owned a pair of pajamas. 

Contact the Pajama Program or a local chapter to determine their needs and where to send your donations. Ask your guests to skip the hostess gift and bring new pj’s and books to your party instead. Want to do more? You can also volunteer to read to children at one of their reading centers or help sort donations.   


2. Collect jeans for homeless teenagers. This is a great project for middle school, high school and college students. In 2008, DoSomething.org® partnered with Aéropostale to create Teens for Jeans. Similar to food drives, teens collect new and gently used jeans to donate to homeless youth. Over a million young people under the age of 18 experience homelessness in the US every year.

“We called homeless shelters across the country and asked them what young people entering homeless shelters often requested and found that jeans were one of the most requested items,” said Nami Mody, Homelessness and Poverty Campaign Specialist for DoSomething.org.Teens for Jeans

Teens can bring their jeans to any Aéropostale store. The jeans will be distributed to local homeless shelters. Mody is not surprised by the success of the program and its impact on local communities. “Young people want to take action in their communities, and homelessness is one of the causes they care about the most. The campaign is so inspiring because it's all about young people helping young people.”

You can collect jeans now during the holidays and drop them off at local Aéropostale (and P.S. from Aéropostale) stores from January 12 to February 15, 2015. Each store is paired with at least one homeless shelter or charity in your community. Jeans of all sizes are needed and should be in good condition.

3. Chances are someone in your family or circle of friends will find a new cell phone under the tree this Christmas. You may even have a few old cell phones in your “junk” drawer. Now you can put them to good use. Instead of exchanging ornaments at your holiday party, tell your friends to bring their old cell phones!

Cell Phones for Survivors encourages people to donate their old phones to be refurbished, sold, and turned into funds to help survivors of domestic violence. Simply collect and mail in old cell phones. Sign up at Do Something.org and print out postage paid shipping labels.

HopeLine® from Verizon is another similar program. Since 1995, Verizon has refurbished phones and equipped them with minutes, texting capabilities, and a variety of services before giving them to survivors affiliated with participating domestic violence agencies. Phones can be from any provider. Drop off donated phones at local Verizon stores or ship with their postage paid shipping label.

4. Whether you’re in charge of the office party or planning the end of year club or team celebration, share your joy with others who need your support. Find all those holiday greeting cards you keep buying on sale and never send out or create your own. Ask your guests to send Season’s Greetings to military personnel away from home and family. Or, send cards to your local nursing home, children’s hospital, or shelter, etc.

Every year, Operation Gratitude sends over 100,000 care packages filled with treats and letters to deployed U.S. Service members, their family members, and wounded soldiers. See their website for specific details about what to write and where to send your cards.

A MillionThanks.org asks individuals and groups to write cards and letters of appreciation for the military. Review their guidelines, find a location near you, and send your cards and letters to our troops. Contact your location via phone or email to be sure they can accept your cards and letters.

5. If you’re having a cookie exchange, ask your guests to also bring an extra pair of gloves, socks, a hat or some basic toiletries. When dividing the cookies, assemble extra bags for your local homeless shelter. Fill reusable grocery bags or old backpacks with items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and hand sanitizer, etc. This is a great way to use all those little hotel shampoo and body wash bottles! You can also find hand warmers in the dollar section of many stores. Don’t forget to add the cookies!

6. This season brings a lot of celebrations filled with our favorite dishes, treats, and traditions. What are yours? If you’re getting together with family and friends to bake or cook your special recipes, have everyone bring duplicate non-perishable items for your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day dinners and donate them to a local food bank. Or, check with your local church to sponsor a family in need. Collect items they might need to brighten their holiday. You can also stop by your post office to pick up Letters to Santa. Help bring joy to children around the U.S.

Whether you're celebrating with family, friends or co-workers, give thanks for what is truly important. Remember to share your joy with your community and those in need. How do you celebrate this season of giving? Tell us what you do as a family, with friends and with your community.

Topics: Thanksgiving, Food Banks, Food Pantries, Food Drives., Christmas gift ideas, holiday party ideas, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, community service, youth impact, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, parents, opportunities, connecting communities, involvement, nonprofit, charity, Parties with a Purpose

10 Ways to Make an Impact on #GivingTuesday™

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Dec 03, 2013 @ 11:05 AM

You're celebrating Thanksgiving with all of your relatives from near and far. Maybe you'll brave the crowds and lines for Black Friday sales. Then, you plan to squeeze in a few minutes to capture some Cyber Monday deals. But the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is the real day to make a difference. I’m not talking about a putting a dent in your gift list with more items on sale. I’m talking about making a real impact in the lives of people and organizations that truly need your help. It’s called #Giving Tuesday. Started by the non-profit community and cultural center, 92nd Street Y (92Y),  along with the United Nations Foundation and a core group of founding partners, #GivingTuesday is a national day of giving at the start of the holiday season.

The event builds on the American tradition of giving back by using technology to make a greater impact. The success #Giving Tuesday has prompted thousands of international and local non-profits, as well as civic minded corporations to join the movement. By harnessing the power of social media, the day is dedicated to helping everyone realize that they have the power to make a difference in someone’s life - to bring about real change in communities around the world.

More than 10,000 partners in all 50 states and around the world are taking part in the third annual event to refocus on giving thanks and giving back. Partners are large corporations and small businesses, faith-based organizations and secular nonprofits. If you don’t have a specific charity in mind, you can go to the #Giving Tuesday website and sort by the type of organization or look for charities by state. There’s every imaginable charity involved.

You can sort by your interests in arts, culture, animals, health, the environment, education, human services, or research and science. You can also choose to support local community groups, religious organizations, schools and universities, large or small companies, government agencies, and various projects sponsored by groups around the world.

With so many charities competing for your donation, you may want to research the organizations on Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau. Charity Navigator provides an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 6,000 of America's charities. The non-profit organization also provides a list of giving tips to help you when choosing a charity. 

Still not sure where to begin? Think about how you want to make an impact. Believe it or not, you can make a difference in a family’s life with $20 or less. Many of the organizations participating have catalogs with gifts ranging in price from $10 to thousands of dollars. Many work to end hunger, supply clean water, provide shelter, or assist people with starting their own business. Some provide disaster relief. Others help protect wildlife.

Here are just ten of the thousands of organizations participating in #Giving Tuesday.

 

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and theirHero-GiftCatalog-Christmas14 communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Their catalog offers choices that make a difference starting at just $16. Gifts include clothing and jewelry that fund small business loans for entrepreneurs; goats that can nourish a hungry family, as well as provide income from surplus milk; and food kits to feed families in need.

Feeding America helps provide fresh, healthy food for people facing hunger every day. Your gift of nutritious food like apples, peanut butter, rice, cheese, broccoli, oatmeal, bananas, and chicken can help families in communities across the country struggling with hunger.

Millennium Promise works to  eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease by empowering communities to help themselves. Your donation can provide nutritious meals to children at school, skilled attendants to help mothers giving birth, clean water supplies, and it can help farmers grow more food to eat and sell.

The American Red Cross provides disaster relief around the world. Their catalog includes items like hot meals, blankets, emergency shelter, vaccinations, and first aid workers for those affected by disaster.

Mercy Corps helps people survive crises in some of the world’s toughest places. They help those affected confront and turn their situations into opportunities to thrive. Gifts in the Mercy Corps catalog range in price from under $50 to over $200 and help men and women in villages around the world earn an income. For as little as $18, you can buy a mosquito net or buy seeds for a family. You can give a sewing machine, outfit a classroom, fund a mobile health unit, or help start a fish hatchery. You can even buy a Yak, which can carry loads in mountainous areas, and produce valuable milk, as well as wool for blankets and clothing. 

donate to schoolsSave the Children gives children in the U.S. and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. Give joy and lasting change to a child when you choose from over 60 gifts in seven different categories, ranging from health and emergency relief, to animals, sports and education, and water and agriculture.

World Wildlife Fund is an international organization that works in collaboration with existing conservation groups to bring substantial financial support to the conservation movement on a worldwide scale. Their catalog includes t-shirts, calendars, greeting cards, ornaments, etc. For $55, you can symbolically adopt a species. Your gift supports WWF's global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives. You can help by giving blankets, vaccinations, purifying water tablets and gifts that support causes like emergencies, food, school transportation, and winter survival packs. Items as low as $15.00 include The Eat & Run bundle that combines Micronutrient Powder and a Soccer Ball to keep a vulnerable child healthy and happy. Gifts under $25 include vaccine carriers that can keep dozens of vaccine vials at the right temperature for 38 hours, even in scorching hot weather. 

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is on the ground in more than 40 countries, including the U.S., providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster. Their rescue gifts include providing a year of education for a young girl for only $58, clean water for $110, a honeybee harvest kit for $72 and for only $45 you can comfort children caught in crisis by sending them teddy bears.

If you want to volunteer in addition to donating funds, but not sure where to start, visit NobleHour, a small company with a big mission to provide an online platform that enables and facilitates community engagement. Companies can create free profiles for their organization and get the word out about themselves, as well as find help by posting volunteer opportunities for free. NobleHour helps school districts, colleges, universities, non-profits, and businesses throughout the US and Canada track and measure service-learning, volunteering, and community service initiatives. 

The company was started in 2007 by a student looking for a way to find service opportunities in his area. It grew from a simple online database of service opportunities to over 180,000 members, over 6,000 organizations, and over 4,000 opportunity listings. Since their relaunch in 2012, users have tracked over 4.5 million service hours, with an economic impact of over $95,000,000.

So whether you just want to donate in your name, you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone who has everything, or you want to volunteer, #Giving Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to be generous with others and embrace the true meaning of the holidays. What are you going to give today? Share your gift list with us!

Topics: Food Banks, Food Pantries, community engagement, outreach, engagement, community, civic engagement, technology, global, opportunities, connecting communities, involvement, nonprofit, fundraising, community partners, social media, active

Volunteering & Kindness: Secrets to a Meaningful Thanksgiving

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 @ 08:36 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Since we started making turkey-themed crafts in kindergarten, we’ve been taught that being grateful is important.  However, this year I challenge you not just to share your gratitude at Thanksgiving dinner, but to also be proactive with your thanks by expressing it to those you appreciate most.  The word “Thanksgiving” does after all imply giving thanks not just saying thanks.  Here are some ways individuals and organizations can give thanks through kindness and volunteerism:

For Individuals

A Thanksgiving Cornucopia

Say Thanks to Friends and Family:  Here’s an interesting exercise. Take out a piece of paper and write down the names of one hundred people you know and interact with.  These don’t have to be the people closest to you or the people you know best.  The idea is simply to write continuously, so this means writing down the names of whoever comes to mind regardless of their importance.  The only requirement is they are a person who has made it into your life at some point.  Don’t overthink it and don’t read over the list right away.  Leave it for a few days, and then return to read over the list.

Now, reread your list and star the people most important to you.  You may find yourself erasing some names from the list or adding ones you forgot, but don’t feel guilty about erasing or forgetting.  Perhaps your list is short, or perhaps it is rather extensive.  The length is not important, but the thought put into it is.  The objective to keep in mind is not to rank your friends’ importance to you, but rather pinpoint who has had a significant impact on you.  This Thanksgiving, instead of generically saying you are thankful for your friends and family, try to reflect on exactly how and why you are thankful for them.  What is it about each person on your list that makes them important, and how might your list need to change?  Finally, express your thanks by telling these people how much you appreciate them.  This might be by sending an email, writing a letter or short note, or giving them a call.  It’s important to surround yourself with people who are helping you life a happier life, so hopefully this exercise will help you reflect on the importance of others in your life.

Say Thanks to Your Community:  One of the best ways to show your thanks for all that you have in life is to help those less fortunate than you.  This is a great way to spur a service-learning project.  Contemplate some basic things you have to be thankful for, such as food, a home, good health, and a job, just to name a few.  Now, how can you show your appreciation for material things?   Share them with others. Consider this example:

UNEP reports that roughly a third of the food produced for human consumption every year is wasted.  In the United States, 30% of food is thrown away accounting for the second highest source of waste in landfills.  At the same time, according to Feeding America almost 15% of households in America are food insecure.  Clearly this is a problem with a feasible solution; that solution is simply being thrown in the trash.  In your local community, you could contact local restaurants and grocery stores to find out how much of their food is wasted and how that food could be repurposed to help others.  This basic formula could be applied to myriad situations.  By doing this, you are showing your gratitude and using this as an occasion to help others.

For Organizations and CommunitiesFall Leaves

Say Thanks to Volunteers:  Volunteers do so much good, and they do it without expecting repayment, but that doesn’t mean their work should go unnoticed.  If you are an Organization, Group, or Community, there are several ways to thanks volunteers.  Showing your appreciation could be as simple as saying “thank you” and letting volunteers know they and their time aren’t taken for granted.  Once a year, take the time to write thank you notes to each of your volunteers.  You might also consider planning a volunteer appreciation event like a luncheon, dinner, or awards ceremony.  Thanking volunteers is not just the right thing to do, but it also a good strategy for keeping volunteers interested and involved in your cause.

Say Thanks to Donors:  If your organization or service project relies on an outside source of funding, make sure you take the opportunity this Thanksgiving to thank whoever has contributed financially to your cause.  Applying for a grant or asking for donations is usually the first obstacle in turning an idea into a reality.  This may come from individual donors, grants, or a combination of the tow.  Call, email, or write a letter expressing sincere gratitude for their aid.  Let them know how the project is going and how their money has contributed to its success.

This Thanksgiving, reflect on what you are grateful for by making a conscious effort to express your thanks.  Remind yourself to be thankful all year, not just once a year.  What are your favorite ways to give back?

 

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community, outreach, leadership, community service, Thanksgiving, fundraising

Students Help with Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

The images are heartbreaking. Many of us in warm and safe households can’t imagine the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. Yet, there are plenty who know first hand the ravages of natural disasters. Within the U.S., we’ve seen what the forces of nature can do to our neighborhoods – tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods have all taken their toll. And, each time, we come together as a nation to volunteer and help those in need. We come together as a community to gather and distribute food, clothing, medical and housing supplies. After Hurricane Katrina and Super storm Sandy, many students spent holiday breaks volunteering to help rebuild devastated neighborhoods.

Right now in the Philippines though, with communications wiped out, limited security and roads blocked, only experienced disaster relief aid workers are allowed in. How do we help those so far away who are in desperate need of food, water, medical attention, sanitation and shelter? There are plenty of opportunities to help including donating money, organizing fundraisers and giving blood.

For now, Meredith Brandt, communications manager for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region said financial donations are the most efficient way to help meet the emergency needs of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Help people affected by the Typhoon in the Philippines.

As of November 16, the American Red Cross has committed $11 million to support their global response to the disaster. Funds will be used to distribute relief items, repair and rebuild shelters, provide healthcare and ensure access to clean water and sanitation systems.

“We don’t send in unaffiliated volunteers,” said Brandt. We have subject matter experts that go to help with disaster relief.”

These specialized emergency response teams are experts in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation. They will assist the Philippine Red Cross with rescue efforts and relief operations.

Brandt emphasized that financial aid will go a long way to help rebuild and recover and said that individuals and groups may also consider fundraising for the Red Cross.

In fact, many college student organizations are doing that now. Their desire to help has resulted in a number of creative and tried and true ideas to raise funds for the relief effort.

From using social media to engage their community and collect donations to organizing fundraisers and selling t-shirts , students everywhere are volunteering at home to make a difference.

For the last 15 years, the Philippine Student Association at Texas A&M University has organized a talent show to help promote diversity among the state’s universities. This year they decided to donate 100% of their ticket sales, as well as any other additional donations collected during the event. “We decided to change focus and donate all of the money raised to the typhoon relief effort,” said Trung Mai, vice president of Texas A&M’s Philippine Student Association. “We wanted to make the event more about our mission statement and what we are all about.”

Mai said they accomplished their goal this year to get more schools involved in the program. “We were sold out and packed all 500 seats in the auditorium. We had six or seven other universities support us, including the University of Texas at Arlington, San Antonio, Dallas, North Texas, and the University of Houston. We raised about $2,500.”

The group decided to donate their funds to the Philippine-based humanitarian organization, Gawad Kalinga.

Mai said they looked at different relief organizations. “We decided to work with Gawad Kalinga. It’s an organization that has a lot of credibility within the Philippines. You can go to their website to donate. There are plenty of choices of how to use your donations. You can also help by keeping them in your prayers.”

The Cornell Filipino Association in Ithaca, New York, is utilizing existing events to raise funds. They’ve also planned a bake sale and a cooking competition, So, You Think You Can Adobo on November 22. The competition emphasizes the delicious diversity of the Philippines' national dish. For only $5, attendees can sample and judge the tastiest variation of Chicken Adobo. Their proceeds will go to Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization working to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The Cornell University group used the website Charity Navigator to determine where they would direct their funds. The nonprofit evaluates the financial health, accountability and transparency of nearly 7,000 charities.

The Philippine Student Association at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a bake sale and fundraiser this past weekend. Funds raised will be directed to the Philippine Red Cross.

In addition to volunteering to raise funds, students can also support relief efforts by donating blood or organizing a blood drive.

Most people don’t think about donating blood until a disaster strikes. It’s important to ensure a sufficient blood supply and it’s also a great opportunity for community engagement.

While you may not be able to travel the globe now to help with disaster relief, Brandt suggests that students check out their local Red Cross chapter for volunteer opportunities within their own community. Individuals 13 years and older can volunteer.

If you want to be ready to help with disaster relief in the future, then consider disaster response training. Most disaster responders must be 18 years or older. Each local chapter can provide additional information about volunteer opportunities.

“We encourage people who want to help with disaster relief to become affiliated with the Red Cross and be trained,” said Brandt. “So, if the next disaster occurs, you are trained and ready to go either nationally or internationally.”

If you are organizing a fundraiser or would like to personally help fund relief efforts, here is a partial listing of organizations, in addition to ones previously listed, working to help those affected by the typhoon. What are you doing to help those affected by disasters? Share your stories.

Catholic Relief Services

ChildFund International

Direct Relief

Habitat for Humanity 

International Medical Corps

International Rescue Committee (IRC) 

Salvation Army (Text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10.)

Save the Children

UNICEF 

World Food Programme (WFP) (Text AID to 27722 to donate $10.)

World Vision http://www.worldvision.org

Topics: service, volunteering, volunteering nonprofit, abroad, nonprofit, community, civic engagement, community engagement, outreach, opportunities, social media, global, involvement, engagement, community service

How Service-Learning Engages Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 @ 11:30 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Service-learning is something I’m involved in on a daily basis. I find that sometimes students and parents are ill-informed on the distinction between volunteerism and service-learning, and this can lead to confusion.  A common misconception is that service-learning is just an impressive way of saying volunteerism. Luckily, the concept is both easy to follow and implement once it is understood.  The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse gives a very comprehensive definition of service-learning: “Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” What sets service-learning apart is its connection to education.  Service-learning is about applying skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-life experiences that benefit the community.  

Accounting students at the University of Texas at Austin are engaging in service-learning by filing tax returns for low-income residents (Source: What Really Counts in a Service-Learning Accounting Class).  In Accounting 366P, students learn how federal tax codes work.  They also study issues affecting low-income residents such as “socio-economic issues, housing and immigration policy, and economic development.”  Then the practice what they have learned by partnering with a nonprofit called the Community Tax Center to help low-income families get the most out of their tax return.  Instructor Brian Lendecky says that, “The most important part of the learning process is actually applying your trade.”  In this class, students learned information vital to their careers, applying that knowledge, and helping members of the community. Business students engage in service-learning by helping with tax preparations.

Many students recount that the best lessons came from the stories they heard from their clients.  When completing their 55-hour service requirement for the course, they engaged in the very issues they’d heard about in their lectures.  One student describes a single mother who put six children through college debt-free.  This type of determination can’t be taught in books; it has to be found in experience.  Another remembers a woman who was hearing impaired and needed her mother to translate.  This prompted the student to learn sign language so he could communicate with more people.  In one year, 200 students filed 18,310 tax returns and helped get their clients over $31 million in returns.  This is much-needed money for families to pay bills, buy groceries, and pay off debts.  What the students gain from the course is not just how to file tax returns, but the power to use their knowledge to elevate others.

In Morris, Minn., students are completing a service-learning project that will help to restore local history.  These students are getting down in the dirt—literally—in some eerie places, but they are doing it for the right reasons.  Lead by University of Minnesota Morris Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rebecca Dean, students will be excavating, cataloging and restoring a local cemetery that has been destroyed.  The cemetery holds immense importance to local history.  The Boerners’ family plot of 12 graves dates back to the late 1800s.  The site ties back to the pioneers who originally settled in the area.  As part of this project, students will be using the archeological skills they have studied in class to gain hands-on experience.  Dean says the project’s close vicinity to the university also makes it an accessible project to her students, in contrast to excavations abroad she has preformed that are a larger financial and time commitment for students.  In addition to being a great lesson plan, the project will give back a historical site to the community.  Students will not only be prompted to master their skills, but also to consider carefully the implications of excavating a site and the importance of being delicate to local history.  (Source: Morris Sun Tribute)

Students helped plan a new hiking trail as part of a service-learning course.

In another service-learning project, students of Environmental Science at Tennessee Wesleyan College conducted research on local wildlife to help the community.  This project went beyond your typical lab assignment.  Students worked to assess a piece of property belonging to the City of Athens, Tenn. that will soon be developed into a new hiking trail.  Each group of students conducted observations of an area of the property and collected data about plants, insects, animals, soil, pollution and erosion.  They compiled the data and determined the effect of building the trail on the environment.  They delivered their recommendations to the city to help them in building the trail.  Assistant Professor Caroline Young described the objectives of the initiative: “It is my hope that by involving students in environmental projects through service-learning, they will see how the issues we discuss in the classroom directly impact our own city, and they will then understand that their efforts make an important difference in the world . . . I hope to foster a spirit of caring for the Earth in my students that will last long after my class is over.” These students engaged in the material in their classrooms and were able to help the community with their research.  As a follow up to the project, the students plan to plant trees in areas of the property where their data revealed a need for more plants.  (Source: Knox News)

These examples show different ways that service-learning helps engage students in their studies. Service-learning is becoming an increasingly popular tool in education because it encourages students to interact with their learning by applying their talents and knowledge to helping the community.  Check out local opportunities for ideas on how to incorporate service-learning in your classrooms. 

Topics: service learning, education, volunteering, experience, k12, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, community service, service learning

Scholarships for Student Volunteers

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Oct 08, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Volunteerism is not only great for the community, but it can also benefit young volunteers by creating opportunities for scholarships. Several programs exist to reward students for their service to the community and help them finance their higher education.  Here are a few examples of volunteer scholarships:
  • The Prudential Spirit of Community Award “is the United States' largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service.”  This award is available to students in grades 5-12 who have engaged in community service and leadership over the last year.  The deadline for applications this year is November 5th, and the winners will be announced on February 11th, 2014.  Winners are selected on the local, state, and national level.  A special awards ceremony for state winners is held in Washington, DC.  A $5,000 award is given to winners who progress to the national level.  The Spirit of Community program encourages service on an international platform, awarding students in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, and China.

  • The Best Buy Scholarship Program awards 1,100 scholarships each year to high schools students who show strength in both academics and volunteerism.  The scholarship money is given for higher education.  In addition to academic records and extracurricular activities, students are asked to provide a record of their service-learning hours when applying.

    Students receive a scholarship from NobleHour for their volunteer service.
  • The Gloria Baron Prize for Young Heros annually recognizes 25 outstanding young leaders. The founder of the Barron Prize, author T. A. Barron, named it after his late mother Gloria. Gloria Barron was a teacher, a mother, and an active member of her community.  She dedicated her life to young people, encouraging her students to write their stories down and urging them to do something to better the world.  She believed in the power of the individual, particularly a young individual's ability to better the greater community. Young people across America can be nominated for the award after completing a service project that makes "a significant positive difference to people and our planet."  Nominations are accepted until April 30, and winners are announced late September.  Of the 25 selected, the top ten receive $5,000 to be applied to their higher education or to their service project, a recognition plaque, a signed copy of "The Hero's Trail" by T.A. Barron, and other awards. The Barron Prize seeks to recognize the inspiring work of young people.
  • The retail store Kohl’s offers the Kohl's Cares Scholarship Program for students aged 6-18 who have not yet graduated from high school.  The program has recognized 17,500 students and granted over three million dollars in scholarships.  Students are nominated and selected based on the impact their volunteer hours had on the community.  Winners from each store receive a $50 Kohl's Gift Certificate.  The most meaningful projects are selected from each region and awarded $1000, and national winners receive a $10,000 scholarship plus a donation of $1000 to a nonprofit valued by the student.  The award monies for region and national winners are used toward the student's higher education.  Nominations for the 2014 Kohls Cares Scholarship Program will be open from January 31-March 14, 2014.

    These are just some examples of scholarships for volunteers provided by private institutions, but several publicly funded programs also exist to recognize volunteerism:

    Several Government scholarships exist to award students for their service and help them pay for higher education.  AmeriCorps, a branch of the Corporation for National and Community Service*, encourages young people to dedicate a year to service working with a nonprofit, school, public agency, or community.  Students earn valuable skills, become civically minded, and gain experience valued in the workforce—where they are heading after their year of service.  For their volunteer work, students receive a small stipend to cover living expenses, since in dedicating all their time to volunteering, they have no other source of income.  They also receive benefits such as healthcare and childcare during their time as a volunteer.  Upon finishing a term of volunteerism, students are eligible to apply for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award*, which awards volunteer scholarship money to be put towards paying for higher education or repaying student loans.  The scholarship award is valued at the maximum Pell Grant during the year of service.  Members of AmeriCorps can receive up to two Education Awards if they volunteer for more than one term.  This program not only encourages young people to serve and become active and dedicated to a cause, it also helps them pay for their higher education.

  • The President’s Volunteer Service Award*, previously discussed on NobleHour, also recognizes volunteers who, alongside their daily lives, track hundreds of hours helping in the community.  Applicants are asked to produce some type of log as proof of their volunteer hours.  Tracking volunteer hours on using NobleHour’s hour-tracking software is a way to accomplish this.

Volunteer scholarships are a great opportunity to help reward and recognize students for their work and help them pay off their tuition.  What are some other ways students can use their talents to overcome the challenges of today’s rising tuition fees?

*For the time being, volunteers are unable to apply for these programs and awards due to the federal government shutdown. More information about the effects of the government shut down can be read in the Corporation for National and Community Service’s contingency plan.

Topics: service learning, service, education, millenials, volunteering, graduates, volunteering nonprofit, community, civic engagement, community engagement, CNCS, outreach, opportunities, youth impact, volunteer management, scholarships

Connect to your Community with NobleHour's free Organization Profile

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 @ 12:57 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

NobleHour is a growing network of organizations and members, and we want you to be part of the great work our members are finding and tracking here on NobleHour.  In today’s digital world, online presence is fundamental for any group or organization hoping to expand and succeed. Creating a free Organization Profile increases your visibility online by promoting your organization and connecting with an established network of individuals and communities.  

Screen_Shot_2015-01-12_at_12.13.25_PMIt combines the exposure of a Facebook Page, the customizability of a website, and the simplicity of a business card on a network of motivated individuals looking to improve the world.  An Organization Profile is ideal for local non-profits, businesses, schools, clubs, etc. looking to expand their outreach by increasing their presence online.  On NobleHour it’s easy and free for an organization to make itself visible and accessible to potential volunteers, interns, members, and employees, and expand your connectedness online by linking your NobleHour to social networking.  Organization Profiles allow you to build connections with people interested in being part of your success.  Learn how starting your free Organization Profile today can benefit your organization.

Creating an Organization Profile is free and simple.  Start by logging into NobleHour or creating a NobleHour account and clicking on the Organizations tab.  On the left select Add Organization and fill out information about the organization you represent to begin creating your profile.  A more detailed explanation can be found at the NobleHour Help Center.  With basic information about your organization filled out, you are ready to start personalizing your profile and expanding your outreach.  With the basics filled out, it’s time to explore the functions and benefits of an Organization Profile.

The first tab from the right, the Overview Tab, allows you to display basic information about your organization including a brief description, a mission statement, the type and category of your organization, location, and the ability to upload your organization’s logo to appear on your profile.  Any of this information can be easily edited by simply clicking of each category, updating it, and hitting save.  This is the first page a NobleHour citizen browsing your profile will see and the well-organized, concise display of information makes it easy to quickly get a sense of what your organization is about.  The Overview tab is customizable to non-profits, corporate companies, and everything in-between.  As it could be a NobleHour citizen’s first impression of your organization, the simplicity and adaptability of the Overview tab allows your online presence on NobleHour to accurately and fully reflect the goals and purpose of your organization.  Potential volunteers and applicants easily flip through and learn about organizations on the NobleHour network, and by connecting your Organization to NobleHour you will also connect with motivated NobleHour citizens.

Share opportunities on your free NobleHour Organization Profile

The second tab on an Organization Profile is Opportunities.  Editing content on this tab allows you to post opportunities related to your organization.  Each time you create an Opportunity, a unique Opportunity code accompanies it so you can pass this on to members of your Organization for them to see more information about the Opportunity and track hours.  As an Admin for the Organization you will be notified when a member has submitted hours to verify.  When publicizing your opportunity on NobleHour, you can specify the type of opportunity, qualifications, location, time, contact information, and other important details potential participants need to know.  NobleHour citizens logged in on your area will see your posting on their NobleHour accounts even if they are not yet members of your organization, allowing you to link up with volunteers and applicants by sharing programs, events, and jobs.  Admins also have the opportunity to share Opportunities via Facebook, Twitter, and email, increasing your outreach online.  Opportunities are versatile and manageable.  They are applicable to short-term or long-term positions, and can be used to promote anything from volunteer to internship to paid job positions.

The next two tabs are the News and Contact Tab.  The News tab allows Admins to post update and news.  It gives you the ability to keep members of your organization  updated on news and events on your own personal news page.  The News page looks much like the Noble Blog page, allowing members to comment and share your news updates. The Contact tab is a mode of communication for online users looking for more information about your organization.  These two tabs create a two-way street of communication between an organization and its members.  The News page lets the Organization announce information and the commenting or contact features allow members to respond.  On these four tabs—Overview, Opportunities, News, and Contact—Admins are able to conveniently post and edit content.  The information is presented on the NobleHour network the same way it appears to the Admin so when contributing or sharing content, it is presented the same way it was created allowing organizations to clearly see how they are being represented online.

Members can contact your organization through your free profile.

A Organization Profile becomes universal by allowing you to share the content you post on NobleHour elsewhere on the internet via Facebook, Twitter, and Email.  This feature links the different ways your organization networks online.  As an administrator of an Organization Profile, you have one additional tab on your profile that lets you adjust settings for your profile.  It also allows you to manage the membership of your Organization Profile, add other admins, and verify hours.  The free Organization Profile allows a great deal of freedom when connecting within the NobleHour network.  However, to benefit from more features on NobleHour, you can at anytime upgrade to a Community.  For more information on the differences between Organization capabilities and Communities, read What is the Difference between an Organization and Community?”  

 

Topics: business, service learning, volunteering, outreach, community, opportunities, nonprofit

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