I Support Community Volunteer Engagement – Getting it Right

Doing it Right – Volunteer Engagement
For many non-profits, engaging volunteers is a difficult task.  Sure, there are opportunities to be involved, but true engagement remains elusive.   One organization I know is doing it right.
I am fortunate to be involved with I Support Community.  Through them, I had two incredible experiences last month.  The first came from meeting another volunteer, the other from being moved by a video story they produced.
I spent time with Hope and Promise, which offers equine therapy to our veterans who have had difficulties adjusting back to civilian life or have suffered injury while in service to our country.  Their program brings a group of veterans together for a week of bonding and therapeutic healing.  Hope and Promise feeds, houses and treats these incredible men and women.  All expenses are paid, so no veteran has to worry about the cost of care.  The facility they operate out of is peaceful and serene, and has all the amenities required to connect the veterans to the horses that assist in their recovery.
I met Alaire Merritt, one of their Board Members, though I Support Community. Alaire took me on a tour of the Hope and Promise facilities, introduced me to other members of the organization, and showed me all the ways they are helping our veterans.  After a week of equine therapies, the team members all sign a piece of wood that becomes part of the fence around the farm.   One can’t help but be moved by what they write, and what an incredible impact this organization has on these men and women.   It was truly an honor to be there, and experience what Hope and Promise has to offer.
Another moving experience through I Support Community came while watching the videos they produced for Special Spaces of Chicagoland.  Special Spaces does room makeovers for terminally ill children.  Having been involved in the cancer community for so long, I was touched by what they do for these children and their families.  While the videos were incredibly moving, what happened next I will never forget.
I was invited by Kelly Knox, the Director of Special Spaces, to witness firsthand what they do, and came out to one of their makeovers.  I had the privilege of being part of the team that renovated the room of Marshall, a 10 year old boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Marshall is a huge Chicago Bulls fan.  Kelly and her team of talented and dedicated volunteers transformed Marshall’s room into a total Bulls experience, complete with autographed jerseys, a Bulls bed, locker and custom mural featuring Michael Jordan dunking a ball.  To top it off, it looks like the ball is being dropped into an actual hoop on Marshall’s wall.  The wood floor below has official NBA court decals.  Every detail has been thought of to immerse Marshall in his beloved Bulls.
Through what can only be described as controlled chaos, the team worked tirelessly throughout the day on the transformation.  That afternoon, when Marshall arrived home, we waited in his room to surprise him.   The expression on his face when he came through the door will remain with me forever.
Through sharing video stories and offering networking and volunteer opportunities, I Support Community is engaging the community around these incredible organizations.  This isn’t just a simple call to donate, it is a learning experience for everyone from kids to adults.  Engaging children helps create an ongoing culture of support.  The depth of information creates not only awareness, but an opportunity to engage the community on multiple levels.
I Support Community has a great model for volunteer engagement.  In developing programs and opportunities for others, they have created support for themselves, as well.

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