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It’s hard to believe, but Make a Difference Day preparations are under way! Each year, United Way of Larimer County offers the Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) program to anyone interested in being recruited and trained to work closely with local nonprofit organizations to assist in building the capacity of a one-time volunteer project.
Being a Volunteer Project Leader is a really unique opportunity to work with a nonprofit and to be a leader in your community! Julie Shuffler (pictured on the left), a past VPL recently shared her experience with us about volunteering with Larimer Children, Youth & Family Services (CYF).
1. Why did you participate in the Volunteer Project Leader program?
I volunteered to be a United Way Project Leader because I am a Project Manager by trade and I love planning things and watching them come to fruition with the help of a great team. I was really excited to be able to put my professional skills to work for a volunteer cause I was passionate about!
2. Can you tell us a little about your experiences in the program?
My experience in the program was amazing. My introduction into the program was much more than I expected. United Way really has this program down to a science, and they handed me a packet of forms and instructions that really walked me thorough everything I needed to do. They then paired me with my top choice of charities because they knew that working with kids was a passion for me. Once I met with the coordinator at the charity organization [Larimer Children, Youth & Family Services], we hit it off immediately. I was so impressed by her passion and excitement! We both wanted to give the kids the moon and we really had to reign ourselves in to present something that was great for the kids, but also feasible.
3. Why do you think volunteering is important?
I think volunteering is important because it keeps you grounded and gives you perspective. It allows you to see the world through someone else’s eyes, and encourages empathy, compassion and advocacy. I’ve been truly humbled by the beautiful souls I’ve met while volunteering for different agencies. Many of those individuals have had a heavy impact on my heart and my life. I’ve tried to instill a desire to volunteer in my children as well… mostly by dragging them along to volunteer with me! I think that opening their eyes to different experiences like this has given them open minds to accept new situations and new people without judgments, and it has helped to shape them into generous and caring young men.
4. What was the best part of being a VPL?
The best part was watching the project come to life in the faces of the children and their caregivers. We held a craft event for them where they could go to different stations and create keepsake crafts and works of art to take home or to give as presents. The kids just got to forget about their troubles for the day and just be KIDS. They were so proud of their works of art, and seeing their beaming faces was such a gift!
5. Did your involvement in this program continue to impact you after it was done? If so, how?
My involvement in the program has continued to impact me. The coordinator and I remained in contact and became friends. I have volunteered for several other events with her organization since then, and plan to remain involved. It also made me appreciate even more just how much these agencies benefit from the many volunteers in our community. The staff numbers are often fairly low in these non-profit organizations and although they want to do so much, too often there just aren’t enough hours in the day or hands to help. Having volunteers to augment their valiant efforts is priceless and magnifies their tremendous work.
Gordan Thibedeau and 2016 MDD Volunteers, Greenbriar Tree Planting
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County