Big Picture News: Celebrating our volunteers

Below is the Big Picture News insert from our Summer 2015 Groundviews newsletter. To read the entire newsletter or past issues, please visit our Groundviews webpage.

I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times: “We couldn’t do it without your support!” But when it comes to Solid Ground volunteers, this nonprofit fundraising mantra is much more than a platitude – it’s a reality.

King County RSVP Director Jen Gahagan with longtime volunteer Paul Jeganathan

King County RSVP Director Jen Gahagan with longtime volunteer Paul Jeganathan

Volunteers like Matt (see our 8/2015 Groundviews lead story) profoundly increase the impact Solid Ground makes in communities across Seattle and King County. Last year, over 5,000 volunteers gave 247,358 hours of service to the Solid Ground community. (The vast majority, 197,936 hours, were contributed by volunteers 55 and older!)

By the Independent Sector’s standard, one volunteer hour in Washington state equals $27.54. In 2014, this translated to nearly $6.8 million in volunteer labor – more than one quarter of Solid Ground’s annual budget! We very literally could not accomplish our work without them.

Volunteering is win-win, changing lives for the better both for our program participants and our volunteers. Volunteers share their talents, learn new skills, and make connections while taking action to improve our community and help our neighbors in need. They play a meaningful role in something big.

Many of Solid Ground’s 22 programs and services rely on volunteers. Opportunities range from one-time to long-term and include…

  • Hands-on projects: Grow fresh, organic food for local food banks, or help renovate residential building spaces.
  • Direct service with people: Tutor and mentor kids coming out of homelessness, or teach children, teens, adults and families about nutrition and cooking.
  • Community outreach: Help communities register to vote, or represent Solid Ground at informational events.
  • Behind the scenes: Help put on events for our program participants and supporters … and more!

Lettuce Link is one Solid Ground program that relies heavily on volunteers to work with and in communities to grow and share fresh, nourishing food.

Lettuce Link Program Manager Nate Moxley says, “Volunteers are the life force of Lettuce Link. Their work and dedication allow us to manage two education and access farms where we host hundreds of classes, field trips and community groups every year.” Additionally, volunteer giving gardeners donate the bounty of their labors, and last year grew more than 55,000 lbs of fruits and vegetables for food banks and meal programs.

Senior volunteers also make an enormous contribution to the Solid Ground community. Our RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) matches volunteers 55 and older to opportunities both with Solid Ground programs and with 52 partner organizations across King County.

RSVP Director Jen Gahagan says, “We are so grateful and appreciative for the support and commitment of our senior volunteers. They provide a wealth of knowledge and experience which help us tackle our community’s greatest challenges.”

Thank you to all of our amazing volunteers!

For more info on volunteering, visit our Volunteer webpage, or contact our Volunteer Coordinator at 206.694.6825 or volunteers@solid-ground.org.

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Summer 2015 Groundviews: Volunteers, making a direct impact

Below is the lead story of our Summer 2015 Groundviews newsletter. To read the entire newsletter or past issues, please visit our Groundviews webpage.

Through 12 years of volunteering, Matt* has tutored scores of students at our Broadview Shelter and Transitional Housing for women and their kids who are leaving domestic violence. Along the way he’s helped students get into major universities, and provided vital witness and support to others.

Matt, a longtime volunteer tutor at Broadview

Matt, a longtime volunteer tutor at Broadview

Matt began volunteering at Broadview in the fall of 2003, when he relocated to Seattle to pursue a tech career after graduating from Duke University. “I had done various volunteering opportunities when I was in college and high school; I was just looking for a way of getting involved out here,” he says.

Comfortable with math and a steady role model, Matt became a weekly tutor with middle and high school kids, many of whom face considerable challenges. In addition to overcoming domestic violence, Broadview residents include refugees and other families who have suffered additional trauma.

A flawed system
In Matt’s experience, the public education system often fails to adequately support these students. “They might be in huge classes where the teachers just don’t have time. I don’t fault the teachers. The system is not set up to help kids who may have been in a different school every year because of their homelessness. They can be three grade levels behind and getting pushed forward because we don’t hold kids back anymore. So they are pushed forward, pushed forward, pushed forward, and they wind up in middle school and high school.

“I’ve seen kids in high school probably at a fourth or fifth grade level. I think a comparatively small amount of input time can yield really large benefits for some of these kids. And the earlier that you can get them academic help can have really profound impacts on how they do later on.”

One of Matt’s students now goes to the independent Lakeside School, another attends Stanford University, and another graduated from University of Washington. The Stanford student now volunteers at Broadview as well. “Which is really awesome,” Matt says. “But here is the thing: Those kids, they needed a lot of help, but they really cared. They were passionate, they worked really hard. So I helped a lot, but I didn’t have to necessarily sit and explain, ‘Doing homework is important’ or ‘This is why we would do this.’ They really cared.

“The flipside of that is I’ve had many kids where the conversation ends up being, ‘Well, why am I doing this, why don’t I just drop out of high school?’ It ranges all the way from kids like that to kids who – it makes me sad – who are juniors in high school and will say ‘I want to be a video game designer’ or ‘I want to be a rocket scientist’ or something like that – but they can’t add.”

Opening doors
Matt says, “I think education is just super important. It is super important at least to empower people to have whatever opportunities they might want. I mean, people can go and choose to do anything with their life, but without certain basics, there are certain doors that I think will forever be closed.

“I think education is just super important."

“I think education is just super important.”

“I am very privileged and I recognize that. Good education, good job. I think coming here actually helps ground me in some of the realities that not only go on in this city, but go on elsewhere. I am personally upset by the increasing income inequality in this city.”

A positive impact in the local community
“My wife and I both feel that it is important to engage with the local community where we live. I’ve always been pretty impressed with Solid Ground. I feel like I am having some positive impact.

“We donate money to Solid Ground and we donate to other places. But I don’t think it is the same as donating your time. The dollar value of coming here one hour per week is not necessarily huge compared to what a check can give. But I feel like I am actually having a real direct impact in someone’s life.

“I think when I was younger, and maybe a little more gung-ho, I would have said, ‘We can bring any kid up to grade level!’ Or something like that. And now I don’t think that. I am more pragmatic in the sense that if I can come – and with some of the more difficult kids, if I can just show them that I am a responsible adult willing to come here once a week and care – that might be good enough. That might be really important; that’s the best that I can do with that kid.”

Visit Broadview’s webpage for more info.

*Matt requested that we not use his last name.

Washingtonians love to volunteer!

This post was contributed by Chelsey Loeffers, Solid Ground’s Volunteer Coordinator.

Community volunteers and Solid Ground Board Members at a Seattle Community Farm volunteer work party

Community volunteers and Solid Ground Board Members at a Seattle Community Farm volunteer work party

Volunteerism in our country has hit a five year high, says the recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America report from the Corporation for National & Community Service. In 2011, over 64 million Americans donated almost eight billion hours of volunteer service to organizations nationwide!

Washington ranked 9th out of all 50 states in volunteerism rates; 34.4% of our residents volunteer! Our region specifically also came out on top – the Seattle-Metro area ranks 3rd in volunteerism out of the 51 major metropolitan areas in the country. That’s over 936,000 volunteers!

Solid Ground depends on its volunteer force to create positive change in our community, and we are so lucky to live in a community, state and country that values volunteerism. Congratulations to each one of you for being a part of such a positive big picture.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at Solid Ground, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at volunteers@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6825. Find more information about volunteerism in the United States at www.volunteeringinamerica.gov.

Tell your senators you care about AmeriCorps

Along with cuts to Title X Family Planning programs, on February 19 the U.S. House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which in effect means doing away with the AmeriCorps and RSVP National Service programs. If passed by the Senate, these cuts will impact King County by devastating programs and services that work to prevent violence, increase literacy, build community and reduce generational poverty in our community, including programs at the Seattle Police Department and more than a dozen other local criminal justice system agencies, schools and social justice organizations.

For example, JustServe AmeriCorps Member Antoinette Spillers, placed at the Seattle Police Department, increased dialogue between community and police at a time when several high-profile incidents created significant concern about police brutality and community-police relations in Seattle. Antoinette carried out the canvassing and networking efforts to engage more community members in the Seattle Police Department’s Native American and East African, Muslim, Sikh and Arab Community Advisory Councils. And JustServe AmeriCorps Member Monique Franklin has played a major role at Open Arms in supporting mothers with young children to lead community-driven violence prevention, infant mortality prevention and early childhood education projects.

Antoinette Spiller

JustServe AmeriCorps Members like Antoinette and Monique positively impact our community in countless ways as they work to reduce violence and poverty in King County. Working closely with our partner sites, JustServe AmeriCorps Members have made a difference in the lives of more than 2,000 people in the last few months alone.

Just a few highlights include:

  • ­ Youth Violence Prevention & Intervention: 519 youth at risk of violence or incarceration gained leadership and conflict resolution skills, participated in service learning activities, and connected with positive skill building programs that have shown to reduce the risk of violence.
  • ­Victim Advocacy: 427 domestic violence survivors received crisis intervention services and advocacy through JustServe AmeriCorps Members based at the Seattle Police Department Victim Support Team and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
  • ­Alternatives to Incarceration: 523 adult defendants with low-level misdemeanors participated in JustServe service activities as an alternative to incarceration – led by AmeriCorps Members based at the Seattle Municipal Community Court Program.

While eliminating funding for National Service programs would be a short-sighted move with dire consequences, this outcome is not set in stone. Please contact your senators to let them know that you care about the health and safety of our community.

In Washington State, contact:

Patty Murray: toll free 1 .866.481.9186 or via murray.senate.gov.

Maria Cantwell: toll free 1 .888.648.7328 via cantwell.senate.gov.

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