Connections Volunteer Center (Connections), a program of HelpLine, is celebrating 25 years of service to the Delaware County community.
Founded in 1996 through a grant provided by the United Way of Delaware County and SourcePoint (then Council for Older Adults), Connections opened its doors at the Andrews House – where it’s still located today – to match volunteers of all ages and backgrounds with meaningful experiences.
Today, Connections coordinates the referral and placement of volunteers for more than 60 different agencies who offer hundreds of ongoing and special event opportunities.
“We’re always excited to connect volunteers with local needs. Volunteers are essential to nonprofit agencies, and volunteering is also a great way to stay physically and emotionally healthy. It’s a win-win,” said Suzanne Pingry, program director at Connections Volunteer Center.
Despite obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic, Connections still managed to recruit 695 volunteers and 142 senior volunteers in 2020, which adds up to a total of 3,914 volunteer hours.
“While the pandemic presented challenges to the work we do, it certainly hasn’t diminished the spirit of our small but mighty team,” Pingry said.
One of the ways in which the pandemic reshaped service delivery at Connections was on its training program. Pingry said it has always been a part of the strategic plan to move from in-person to online training options. However, the timeline quickly changed when stay-at-home orders were issued. Because community professionals continued to have the need and desire to learn new skills, the training program was adapted to take place online.
The Connections professional development program offers affordable, local training and a way to connect to other professionals in our community. Since adding the training component, Connections has trained an average of 250 social workers, clinicians, counselors and community members each year.
Since Connections launched, it has matched and referred 19,242 volunteers from church/social groups, corporations and the community to local nonprofits, homes of older adults and public spaces. With the current estimated value of one volunteer hour as $24.60, Connections has invested more than $8 million back into the community over its 25-year history.
Connections introduced several communitywide programs, including Make A Difference Delaware County (MDDC) – the largest single day of volunteering in Delaware. In 2015 and 2018, Connections won national awards for the event and was featured in a national video by then sponsor Tegna. This year will mark the 15th year for MDDC, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Other programs that Connections pioneered to engage volunteers are Family Volunteer Day, The Pen Pal Program and Do Good Date Night.
The newest program, Sages & Seekers, is a free eight-week intergenerational program designed to bring together teens and adults aged 55 or older to share their unique gifts. The goal of this program is to decrease ageism and increase empathy, while connecting with someone of another generation. Sages & Seekers emphasizes the importance of one-on-one in-person conversations, and students present a tribute to their class at the end of the program.
“We are proud of everything we’ve accomplished at Connections over our quarter century in existence and look forward to continuing to engage community members in a way that provides valuable experiences, learning opportunities and human connection,” Pingry said.
In the coming weeks, Connections will unveil exciting new changes to its brand, which will include a new logo, redesigned website and a new online, volunteer engagement platform called Get Connected, an easier way to connect to the causes and organizations in Delaware County. Watch our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter @ConnectionsVolunteerCenter for updates.
Individuals interested in learning about volunteer opportunities, enrolling in training classes, sponsoring an event or program, or making a donation, please contact Connections at [email protected] or visit ConnectionsVolunteerCenter.org.
About Connections Volunteer Center
Connections Volunteer Center is a program of HelpLine, funded by SourcePoint, HelpLine, and private donations. HelpLine is a contract provider of the Delaware Morrow Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, a partner with United Ways of Delaware, Morrow, and Union Counties, and recipient of various state and federal grants as well as contributions that support its mission and services. To learn more, visit www.ConnectionsVolunteerCenter.org.
Submitted by Connections Volunteer Center.