United Way of Central Iowa looking for volunteers as Sept. 14 Day of Action approaches
The United Way of Central Iowa’s annual Day of Action is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14, and there are still opportunities for companies and volunteers to sign up.
Organizers said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made it an unusual year as companies and nonprofits continue to navigate the effects of the virus. Some companies have decided not to participate because of their COVID protocols. Some nonprofits aren’t letting people in, and some activities, such as the Read to Succeed program, aren’t happening because volunteers aren’t being allowed in schools yet.
For those who are participating, there are challenges with matching volunteers with the needs of nonprofits, said Ramona Gaukel, volunteer engagement officer for the United Way of Central Iowa.
“We’ve had companies sign up in a way that works for them,” she said. “Maybe they are allowing groups of 10 or less and they can be only with their team members masked up, and we’re leaving it up to each of the nonprofits because they all have different protocols for COVID. Some require masks. Some are outdoors only. It’s a really wide variety. We’ve really had to help match people up with the needs.”
As of Tuesday, there were slots available for 1,100 volunteers, with 625 signed up so far. Thirty-five nonprofits have registered for a variety of projects, with some identifying more than one project, and 24 companies or groups have signed up to participate.
In prior years before the pandemic, the number of volunteers would range from 2,500 to as high as 4,000, said Gaukel, who also noted that there are fewer opportunities this year because of the pandemic.
Projects this year range from hygiene drives for schools in the Saydel, Des Moines, Carlisle and Perry school districts; yardwork and landscaping; home repairs for refugee families; delivery of items to refugee families and for Meals on Wheels; and general cleaning inside a day care, to name just some of the work planned for this year.
“Many of them are outdoors or socially distant or virtual,” Gaukel said. “We’d love to see some different groups come out that we haven’t worked with before and help make a difference because there is such a high need in the community.”
Gaukel is encouraging any organization or company who hasn’t already registered to participate to consider volunteering this year.
“We’re always looking for ways to change our volunteer work,” she said. “It can really change your employees’ engagement. It can build relationships between your employees, boost morale and help them enjoy where they work more. Shared experiences really create bonds.”
But participation will also really help nonprofits who have struggled over the past year, Gaukel said.
“These nonprofits have had such a hard year and a half, going on two years, they really need the extra help,” she said. “They can’t afford to hire someone to build that rock wall, it’s not going to get built. A place isn’t going to get cleaned up or painted. Those things are just not going to happen.”
Above photo: Volunteers from Sammons Financial Group lay sod at a residence during the United Way of Central Iowa’s 2019 Day of Action. This year’s Day of Action is scheduled for Sept. 14, and slots for companies and volunteers are still available. Photo submitted by the United Way of Central Iowa