Harvest Prep Team | Volunteer Opportunity

Hunger and homelessness is an awful reality in the Charlotte area. Among the hungry are people who are elderly, recovering from injuries or disabilities. With these overwhelming challenges facing their everyday life, it’s often hard for these individuals to cook themselves a meal, go to the grocery store or even afford any food at all. This fall, you have an opportunity to not only fill bellies, but also touch the lives of neighbors in need.

Friendship Trays, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg division of Meals on Wheels, works tirelessly toward their mission. Delivering nutritious meals to individuals who are unable to afford or prepare their own food, Friendship Trays prides themselves in their ability to provide company to recipients.

Aiding them in their mission is Friendship Gardens.

Friendship Gardens is a program of Friendship Trays that grows, gathers and donates their harvest to be served to those in need. Together, the duo has created the Harvest Prep Team.

Averaging more than 600 meals delivered a day, Friendship Trays and Friendship Gardens could use your help in their Harvest Prep Team a few mornings each month. Becoming a team member means that you are helping feed Charlotte, one nutritious tray at a time.

Can’t cook? No worries. As a Hands on Charlotte volunteer member of Harvest Prep Team, your responsibility is to simply prep the ingredients for cooking. Washing, peeling and destemming is about the extent of your activity during the hour and a half event. It’s a simple, easy way to give back to your community and leave the kitchen with that rewarding feeling that keeps our volunteers coming back.

So, grab your apron, bring your positive attitude and let’s get prepping!

To join the Harvest Prep Team and sign up to volunteer, visit our page.

Circle of Friends SouthPark

Do you want to be a part of an uplifting and exciting event?

Circle of Friends, a Christian fellowship group for adults with intellectual disabilities, their families and their caregivers offers a special place for sharing and encouragement. On Thursday nights, roughly 200 to 300 attendees gather together to enjoy refreshments and the fellowship of people who face some of the same challenges.

With the scale of the event and the excitement that goes into each meeting, Circle of Friends is always in need of enthusiastic volunteers to help set up, serve and clean up refreshments. This is your chance to get in on the fun!

When you dedicate just an hour and a half of your time, you get the unique opportunity to be a part of this awesome night. On top of the excitement you get out the environment around you, you’ll receive so much thanks and graciousness that you’re sure to leave with a huge smile on your face.

To sign up and learn more, visit our page.

Game Night at Regency Retirement Home

What is it that lifts your spirit? For some it’s exercising, a home cooked meal, or a good book. For the residents at Regency Retirement Home, it’s participating in game night and socializing with new people.

When you volunteer for a game night at Regency Retirement Home, you’re investing your time in lifting the spirits of senior citizens. The residents look forward to volunteers coming to play Bingo, board games and cards with them and their neighbors.

But don’t worry! If you’re not very good at Bingo, rummy, or other games, that’s OK! Alexa Catherman, Hands on Charlotte volunteer, explains her experience volunteering at Game Night as overwhelmingly positive, despite her failings when it comes to her Bingo game.

“My table definitely scored the most bingos, even if I wasn’t able to contribute any wins of my own. The folks at my table kept the game interesting by making little jokes, ragging on each other, and just adding a little more drama to the game (let’s be honest, Bingo is not exactly an edge-of-your-seat kind of game). I enjoyed myself, despite my incompetence; it was nice to help make the residents smile.”

As a Game Night volunteer, you simply get to play games and interact with the excited residents at Regency. It’s a no-pressure, laid back environment where you leave with a full heart and a positive attitude. You have the opportunity to build relationships with the gracious residents who are just overwhelmingly happy you’re there!

If you’re interested in volunteering at Game Night at Regency Retirement Home, visit our page for more details and to sign up!

Are you looking to get a little more out of your volunteer experience? If so, consider signing up to be a volunteer leader! As a volunteer leader you have the unique opportunity to enhance your resume, and highlight your leadership and management skills. To learn more, visit our Volunteer Leader page.

Literacy & Math Tutoring for Adults | Weekly Volunteer Opportunity

Imagine the pride an adult student feels when they receive their degree. To many, finishing a degree later in life than most is a testimony to the hard work and resilience that empowered them through the challenges they faced along their journey. Now, imagine being a part of that journey.

As a Hands on Charlotte volunteer, you have the opportunity to experience a portion of that pride when you help tutor a non-traditional student in basic literacy and math.

When you participate in Hands on Charlotte’s adult student tutoring sessions, you are doing so much more than working together with students to complete the math problems in their workbooks. You will get the chance to provide your fellow Charlotte citizens with the help and encouragement that will fuel them toward their graduation. You will make friendships, see real learning progress and even brush up on your simple math skills.

The sessions are only an hour and a half on Tuesday and Thursday nights- and you don’t have to commit to any sort of schedule. Just sign up for the days you’re available and don’t forget to bring your teamwork mentality! The tutoring takes place at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), where parking is free and only a block from the tutoring classroom.

Are you interested in helping people make strides toward their education goals?

Join our team of compassionate tutors! Visit our page to sign up!

Study Buddies | Weekly Volunteer Opportunity

For some Charlotte kids, homework is a daunting challenge, each and every night. Many children need help but don’t have any guidance at home. In some families, parents work late hours or simply don’t know how to help. Often, students in Charlotte schools need a buddy to help encourage and guide them through their homework so they can keep up with their school work and excel in and out of the classroom.

This undeniable need for afterschool tutoring for many Charlotte students inspired a program to empower and give kids the help they need.

Study Buddies, a Hands on Charlotte program is an informal, rewarding volunteer opportunity that invests in the education of local children. Being a Study Buddy is a priceless experience. Not only will you gain a sense of pride in watching a student make progress and reach their goals, but you will create special relationships with the students. In a lot of cases, the kids are craving companionship with someone who is interested in being their “buddy”. That’s where you come in.

With the dedication of only an hour and a half of your time on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night at any of the three different convenient Study Buddies locations, you have the chance to make a fundamental difference in the life of a young student. Not only is it rewarding, but it’s also easy. Volunteers simply pair up with students and help them with various homework assignments. From reviewing spelling words or reading books, to learning multiplication tables, your job is to guide the student in the right direction, while adding in the help they may need throughout the hour and a half tutoring session.

What’s that? You’re not willing to pass up such an impactful and rewarding opportunity?

Good idea.

To sign up to be a Study Buddy at Police Activities League Charlotte on Wednesdays, click, here.

To sign up to be a Study Buddy at Learning Help Centers of Charlotte in South Charlotte on Tuesdays, click here.

To sign up to be a Study Buddy at West Boulevard Library on Thursdays, click here.

Homework Hounds | Weekly Volunteer Opportunity

Have you heard of Hands on Charlotte’s weekly volunteer opportunity, Homework Hounds? If you haven’t, you’re missing out on an extremely rewarding chance to make a remarkable difference in a child’s life.

When you dedicate just an hour and a half of your time on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night, you have the chance to change the attitudes, outlooks and even lives of young students. When children don’t have the homework help they need and want, they can become easily discouraged and are likely to simply give up, which leaves homework unfinished and children unpracticed.

That’s where Hands on Charlotte and the Homework Hounds can help. After just an hour and a half of helping awesome kids with their homework, volunteers walk away feeling a sense of reward that’s addicting. The smile on a child’s face when you teach them how to remember the spelling of a word or do a math problem will stick with you long after their homework is due. It’s an easy, fun and exciting way to serve and invest in the children of Charlotte. After all, they are the future of our community.

These informal tutoring sessions take place at Sugar Creek Library where youth feel comfortable coming to get help on their homework. Volunteers pair primarily with elementary school-aged kids and lend a hand on learning spelling words, multiplication tables, science worksheets or even help students read for comprehension.

Feel like it’s been forever since you’ve been in grade school? No worries. Other tutors and volunteer leaders are always there to help you along the way.

Are you interested in signing up for this rewarding experience and becoming a Homework Hound?

To sign up to volunteer on a Monday night at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library-Beatties Ford Road, click here.

To sign up to volunteer on a Tuesday night at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library-Sugar Creek Branch, click here.

To sign up to volunteer on a Wednesday night at Charlotte Mecklenburg LibrarySugar Creek Branch, click here.

Two New Reasons to Volunteer

When most people think about volunteering, they think about how it helps improve lives in the community. However, two new research studies underscore the critical role volunteering plays in improving lives…of the volunteers themselves.

A recent study from the University of Iowa College of Public Health, found teenagers who participate in volunteer activities on their own may be less likely to commit crimes as adults. In fact, it showed that teenagers who volunteer had 31 percent fewer arrests and fewer convictions than those who do not volunteer, and the trend continues as they grew older.

Even those who are required to volunteer, rather than choosing to do so, have fewer arrests and convictions as adults than those who did not volunteer in their youth. Why is this?

The researchers suggest that as teens engage in self-empowering activities like volunteering, they develop a sense of moral and social responsibility that deters criminal activity.

Volunteers also gain the upper hand in the job market. According to research commissioned by Oxfam, which relies on volunteers to staff its shops, 80 percent of employers are more likely to hire an applicant with volunteer experience. It turns out bosses think volunteers have better social skills and work harder than other job applicants.

Such employability is part of the reason why effective organizations embrace a culture of philanthropy. Elliott Davis Decosimo fosters a work environment for employees to get involved in their community, whether through a financial donation or volunteer opportunity. Every office connects professional staff members to an organization they are passionate about and encourages them to hold a board seat or leadership role to build professional and community development.

“Our impact reached farther in 2016 than it ever has,” said Richard Battle (Office Managing Shareholder). “Our Charlotte and Raleigh offices volunteered nearly 5,000 hours in their communities as tutors, treasurers, financial coaches and board members. Supporting our communities through United Way’s influence has made a positive impact on our region and also to the important success and development of our people.”

The benefits described in these recent studies compliment earlier studies showing that volunteering is good for physical, mental and emotional health. Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) has found this to be especially true among physicians battling burnout.

As part of a newly developed wellness curriculum, the Internal Medicine (IM) residency program at Carolinas HealthCare System sought to promote physician well-being and prevent burnout by exploring ways to make community volunteer work more accessible to residents and their already busy schedules.

Shortly after the launch of the curriculum, the IM residency program partnered with United Way of Central Carolinas and Salvation Army’s Center of Hope to bring volunteer opportunities directly to work. During a noon conference lunch hour, CHS residents assembled dozens of “care packs” and “hygiene packages” to be donated to the Center of Hope. Included in these were hand written notes of inspiration directed to the recipients.

“Volunteerism provides an opportunity to impact our community,” said Todd Gandy, chief resident of Internal Medicine at Carolinas HealthCare, “and is also a powerful means to promote wellness and resiliency within our industry.”

Onsite volunteer projects have been adopted by many businesses throughout Charlotte. Hands On Charlotte, the volunteer arm of United Way of Central Carolinas, partners with companies to plan and implement volunteer projects based on their needs.

To help more TIAA employees get involved in supporting local schools, United Way of Central Carolinas recently hosted a Tiny Library build on the TIAA campus. The result: 125 employees were able to help build the libraries in multiple phases throughout the day, while hundreds of others – from various locations across the community – participated in a virtual book drive to fill the libraries with 1,300 new books for nearby CMS schools.

From establishing moral and social responsibility to maintaining a healthy work life balance, volunteerism encourages a positive impact on each individual volunteer.

Published in the Charlotte Business Journal: April 2017


Volunteering for Work Experience

In the world of online webinars and how-to videos, there are many ways to learn new skills and perfect existing ones. The real trick is applying each skill in outlets that show value to future employers.

Skills-based volunteering allows an individual to enhance their resume and make valuable connections in their chosen industry or in a new industry. These experiences help to establish contacts for networking, receive letters of recommendation from professionals in the field and make a substantial contribution to overall job potential.

Here are a few reasons why giving back to the community can enhance a candidate’s professional experience:

Exposes New Career Paths

Skill-based volunteering is a great way to learn more about a specific function or industry, especially if a volunteer is considering developing a new skill, offering a personal skill outside of their career or transitioning to the government or nonprofit sector.

Develops New Skills

When switching careers or climbing the corporate ladder, skill-based volunteering presents opportunities to showcase particular skills that may be a good fit for a new role.

Cultivates a Network

Whether by attending charity events or volunteering time, charitable involvement is a great way to meet new people and expand a professional network. It can be a great way to form a real connection with someone than through a shared passion.

Ways to Get Involved

Many companies across the Charlotte region encourage employees to give back to the community through utilizing their professional skillset.

Beyond Bank of America’s financial partnership with YWCA Central Carolinas, bank employees have advanced the mission through volunteerism with LEAD for Women, the company’s employee network for women. Since 2011, this group of talented women have volunteered monthly to facilitate workshops with the women living in YWCA’s transitional housing programs. Part of this Empowerment Series includes discussions on how to manage finances, how to have healthy boundaries in relationships, and strategies for keeping peace during conflict.

Supportive Housing Communities also host a variety of skill development workshops for their residents such as:

  • Life Skills Workshops (led by Bank of America)
  • Legal Clinic (Bank of America, Merrill Lynch)
  • Computer Skills Classes (Mecklenburg Library -Main Library)

Another approach to skill-based volunteering is mentoring or tutoring. Recently, SunTrust Bank presented a financial literacy group to A Child’s Place K-2 scholars at Ashley Park. ALLY Bank employees mentor residents of Supportive Housing Communities through a Job Readiness Program, which helps individuals create a resume and prepare for a job interview.

However, skill-based volunteering is not just for active professionals. Retirees, who may not be ready to hang their hat after a full career, can volunteer with eager nonprofits in areas such as finance, marketing, consulting, administrative duties and fundraising.

To exercise your expertise, email Doug Macomb at dougm@handsoncharlotte.org.

Published in the Charlotte Business Journal: April 2017


Finding Reward in Getting Uncomfortable

by Gray Davis, a Hands On Charlotte volunteer

In 2010, I was “retired” by the Great Recession when my building industry job disappeared. It’s hard to do nothing and feel good about yourself, so I began volunteering with Second Harvest Food Bank. After a bicycle accident and knee replacement surgery made it unfeasible to continue, I reached out to Hands On Charlotte in search of something new.

Doug Macomb at Hands On Charlotte challenged me to get out of my comfort zone by tutoring kids. I don’t have grandkids, so I wasn’t used to interacting with children anymore. But five months into volunteering, the students enjoy my help and I’m getting as much out of the experience as they are.

In Charlotte, you’re not going to make it without a good education. If you have language barriers, the odds are stacked against you even more. So the Study Buddies program at Learning Help Community Center in south Charlotte helps immigrant and refugee children, particularly from low-income families.

I volunteer two nights a week helping elementary school students with their homework. Some are behind their peers, but they’re very eager to learn – they want to be there.

Others want to get ahead, like a 3rd grader from Cameroon. She’s amazing, speaks both French and English. She’s reading at a 5th grade level, but her parents encourage her to participate to advance further.

Volunteering has really given me a spark. I like the mental exercise, it keeps me sharp. And Hands On Charlotte and the Learning Center are very organized – I’m impressed with their focus and their mission.

At 68, I still have a lot to contribute to this community, and volunteering allows me to do that. Being able to share my knowledge has been extremely rewarding, and I encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zone too.

To learn more about the Study Buddies program or other volunteer opportunities, contact Hands On Charlotte’s Doug Macomb at dougm@handsoncharlotte.org.

Help us shape future projects!

There is no better way to create change than to volunteer right where needs are being served daily. Hands On Charlotte, the volunteer arm of United Way of Central Carolinas, provides group and individual volunteer opportunities across our five-county region. While we already tailor the experience based on availability, skills and interest, we would like to continue to create a diverse calendar of volunteer opportunities just for you!

Throughout the month of May, share, comment, and vote on volunteer projects you would like to see implemented in 2017!

Submit your project idea here.

The top 5 ideas will be featured on our site and the winning participants will receive two tickets to an upcoming Charlotte Knights game.

Let’s get started! Help us choose great volunteer projects!