Spending five days with more than 700 volunteers at the 1995 All-Star FanFest was quite an experience. It was a hard-working group who often arrived hours before their shifts began and stayed long after their jobs were completed.

We had plenty of time to talk about volunteering. So imagine how surprised I was when these volunteers, some of whom were long-time community volunteers, said: “I didn’t know Dallas had a Volunteer Center. What do you do?”

Don’t You Know About Us?

Since I have worked at the Volunteer Center for more than four years, I assume that everyone in Dallas must know about us.

For those of you who are not familiar with this 24-year-old organization, let me introduce you to one of Dallas’ greatest resources. (No, I’m not biased because I work there.)

By definition, the Volunteer Center “mobilizes people and resources to deliver creative solutions to community problems.” Our primary purpose is to serve as a clearinghouse to recruit and refer volunteers to more than 700 nonprofit organizations.

“The clearinghouse is the heart of the Volunteer Center,” says Julie Thomas, executive director of the center. “Over the phone, we match potential volunteers with the organizations that need their help.”

People from throughout Dallas County call us with their interests, as well as their geographic location, time and skill requirements. Our volunteer phone counselors take this information, and using an extensive computer database, refer callers to nonprofit agencies.

75,000 Volunteers Placed

Last year, the Volunteer Center made more than 75,000 agency referrals. From individuals and families to companies with 200 employees, and from 12-year-olds to 102-year-olds, people who call the Volunteer Center can find worthwhile volunteer opportunities.

To provide the best possible experiences for volunteers, the Volunteer Center provides training in volunteer management for nonprofit agencies. Staff members can learn how to work with culturally diverse volunteers, design creative volunteers jobs, and recruit volunteers.

But “mobilizing people and resources” doesn’t stop with the clearinghouse. The Donated Goods program gives companies the opportunity to contribute to their community by donating gently used and surplus items for distribution to nonprofit organizations. Companies donate new clothing and furniture; used computers and other office equipment; and a wide variety of office supplies, cleaning products and personal care items. These items are stored in the Donated Goods warehouse, where participating agencies can select what they need for client and administrative services.

“Local and national companies like Donated Goods because they make one phone call, and their donations benefit hundreds of organizations,” Thomas says.

“Agencies like the program because they can save money for direct client services instead of spending it on supplies.”

But Wait. There’s More.

The Volunteer Center also coordinates 10 other programs:

  • Skill Bank is a computer database that tracks the skills of talented individuals and matches them with nonprofit agencies for short-term projects.
  • Community Board Institute is an annual seminar featuring programs designed to train nonprofit board members, staff and volunteers.
  • The annual Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Awards luncheon recognizes and rewards individuals, groups and companies who exemplify the spirit of volunteerism.
  • The Criminal Background Check program allows nonprofit organizations to conduct authorized criminal history checks on potential staff members and volunteers.
  • Business Volunteer Council provides informational and educational activities for companies with employee volunteer programs.
  • Volunteers In Action (VIA) is a membership group of time-conscious professionals who meet bi-monthly to complete group volunteer projects.
  • Youth Leadership Dallas brings together a culturally diverse group of high school sophomores to learn about Dallas, leadership and volunteering.
  • Exxon Community Summer Jobs Program provides grants to nonprofit organizations to hire college students for summer internships.
  • Adopt-A-Family gives companies and individuals the opportunity to adopt needy families during the holiday season.
  • Community Service Restitution programs places eligible probationers in volunteer positions to fulfill community service hours assigned by the courts.
  • So now that you are an expert about the Volunteer Center, keep our number handy (it’s 826-6767), and give us a call sometime. We’d love to help you find a volunteer job, donate your computer, plan a volunteer project for your company, adopt a needy family, train you for board membership…