STAR Awards are Coming!

DSC_8100April is Volunteer Month, so across the country, Americans and Kalamazoo-ites in particular will be giving time and energy to help others.

National Volunteer Week is April 6-12, 2014. The week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating that by working together, our communities can meet their challenges and accomplish hard-won goals.

Volunteer Kalamazoo in partnership with MLive Media Group/Kalamazoo Gazette is hosting it’s 29th annual STAR Awards to encourage individuals & groups to take this sort of action & be in the center of social change in the Kalamazoo County area. The STAR awards demonstrate the importance of recognizing our beloved Kalamazoo volunteers for their vital contributions.

The STAR Awards will inspire you and remind you of the best-of-the-best in our wonderful community. Each April, during National Volunteer Week, more than 600 volunteers, nonprofit staff and community members come together to recognize STAR Award winners, hear their stories, and celebrate volunteering.

Just as we did last year, we are rolling out the red carpet and holding the program at Chenery Auditorium. Join us for an uplifting morning of stories from our 2014 STAR Award winners, a special performance, and a continental breakfast reception prior to the event. Whether you’re a winner, a nominee, a nonprofit staffer or a community member, you’ll walk away filled with pride in your community. We always do. We look forward to seeing you there!

Erika Ackerman-vertList of 2014 Nominees | About STAR Awards

Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Time: 7:15-9:00 am
7:15-8am Continental Breakfast Reception
8-9am Awards Ceremony
Location: Chenery Auditorium, 714 S Westnedge Ave, Kalamazoo
Cost: $10

Co-sponsored by Volunteer Kalamazoo and MLive Media Group/Kalamazoo Gazette.

Buy Tickets Now

Special thanks to Theo & Stacy’s and Kalamazoo Community Foundation for their support of the event.

So this is what it feels like to be a Muppet

So this is what it feels like to be a Muppet

(or…  What I’ve learned while at Volunteer Kalamazoo)

 My time at Volunteer Kalamazoo has come to an end. It’s been a pleasure and a joy to be involved with such a great organization for the past seven years – both as a board member and staffer. A parting gift to you (and me)… I wanted to share some thoughts and impressions about my experiences at Volunteer Kalamazoo.  

  • The staff at Volunteer Kalamazoo is amazing — smart, dedicated and hilarious. I’ve laughed big, learned so much and made lifelong friends.
  •  There is no other organization in Kalamazoo like Volunteer Kalamazoo. Truly, one of a kind. We help so many nonprofits and volunteers. Volunteer Kalamazoo has a big impact on this county while being a good steward of resources and staying nimble.
  •  I dig volunteering. I loved working for an organization that didn’t represent just one cause… it’s about every cause.
  • Eat Drink Give IS the best party in Kalamazoo.
  • Even my twin daughters have benefitted from my work at Volunteer Kalamazoo. They have learned what it means to volunteer, give to others, fundraise and be philanthropists. They got an insider’s experience and I’m grateful for that.
  • I have met the Most Awesome People in Kalamazoo. Staff, board members, committee members, volunteers, nonprofit partners, restaurant and beverage purveyors, corporate partners – you are wonderful. So charitable, fun, thoughtful and willing to give. Kalamazoo is a better place because of you.
  • Best of all, my work with Volunteer Kalamazoo has allowed me a chance to live like a Muppet. Perhaps I should clarify. Muppets creator Jim Henson once said “My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”

THANK YOU to Volunteer Kalamazoo for giving me the opportunity to do a little good and have a lot of fun while doing it. 

 Katie Keel served Volunteer Kalamazoo as a member of the board from 2006 – 2009 and as the fund development director from 2011 – 2014. She has taken a job as account executive at Bostrom, an association management company. Katie lives in Kalamazoo with her daughters and fiancé and promises to remain involved with Volunteer Kalamazoo. (In fact, she pinky swears.)

New Volunteer Opportunities This Month…

Kalamazoo Literacy Council

The Kalamazoo Literacy Council is in need of math tutors to help them pass the GED, improve their computation skills for work and help with financial literacy and other basic math functions at home.  There are several community literacy centers across the Kalamazoo County area in need of math tutors to assist students.  No prior training is required.

For more information contact: Jessi at 269.382.0490 or email,  jpavey@goodwillswmi.orgCabin5GroomingLucky

Lake Village Homestead

Lake Village Homestead is looking for volunteers for their 1st ever Farm Wellness Day 5k & Kids Obstacle Course

on Sat. May 17, 2014.  Volunteers are needed for set-up, on-site assistance & tear-down. 7am – 11am. From 11am-3pm, 3pm – 5pm or 7am – 5pm, enjoy lunch & then help us give animal and garden tours. The race is in celebration of the connection between the health of our bodies and minds, and the health of the earth and the animals that inhabit it. Participants & volunteers alike will enjoy our 1.5 miles of Long Lake shoreline & nearly 300 acres of connected meadows & wooded trails with diverse views and beautiful habitats shared by farm animals and wildlife

For more information contact: Tony at 269.808.2529 or email,

Friendship Village – Kalamazoo

Friendship Village is looking for 2 Volunteer Garden Managers to help manage other community volunteers & to plan, nurture, plant & harvest produce & herbs for use in preparing fresh meals for residents!

Do you have vegetable gardening experience, are able to bend/pull/lift & work in the heat? Are you 18+ & able to give 3-5 days per week this summer/Fall? If so, YOU may be the right person for this unique leadership-based opportunity!

For more information contact: Teresa at 269.381.0560 or email,

ASSE International Exchange

ASSE International Exchange has students from all over the world who want to learn about American cultural, right here at home with you in south west Michigan! I myself have been an exchange student and lived with a host family, and it was one of the most exciting and educational experiences of my life! We are branching out in the Kalamazoo and Portage area looking for families who want to share not only their homes, but truly their lives and experiences with an international student. These students themselves are eager to share their lives and stories with you!

Imagine sitting down to dinner with your exchange student and enjoying a home cooked meal from Germany, while they tell stories of the first time their mother made this for them.

Imagine taking them to one of Kalamazoo fantastic art galleries and sharing local art they could only see here in Kalamazoo; one in a life time opportunity to experience the beauty that is Art Hop of downtown Kalamazoo!

Imagine taking them out to see Lake Michigan, and watching their eyes grow as they see the beautiful lake is like looking over the ocean.

These students can not come over to the USA without host families, you could be the family to make their dreams come true! We offer a full year, or just a semester programs

As Area Representative, I will work closely with each family to find a student match, and work throughout their stay with excursions with all the students and families, and monthly check-ins.

I was lucky to find a host family and create this memories I will never forgot. Contact me, or check out the website to get a taste of the wonderful semester or year that is about to come!

For more information contact: Kathleen at 989.284.6122 or email,

Colleagues International

Colleagues International is looking for 5 International Visit Coordinators to assist in program recruitment, event & meeting coordination, transportation needs for participants & database maintenance.

Do you have good organizational skills, a professional and outgoing personality, the ability to communicate effectively & the desire to be a part of a challenging & rewarding volunteer opportunity? If you are 18+ and able to give 10-15 hrs. per week,

For more information contact:  Sarah at 269.341.9494 or email,

 Portage Community Center

The Portage Community Center is looking for a food pantry volunteer to help customers shop Tuesdays, 11am – 1pm. Are you friendly, organized & committed to serving your community?

For more information contact: Katherine at 269.323.1942 or email,

The Hispanic American Council

The Hispanic American Council is seeking 6 tutors (17+) for their Youth Development Project for students, 13-20 yrs. living in the Edison neighborhood needing academic support once or twice a week, 3-4:30pm or 3-5pm.

For more information contact: Roxanna at 269.385.6279 or email,

The Richland Area Community Center

The Richland Area Community Center is looking for a few artistic volunteers for their fundraising event on April 24. Non-artistic help is also needed for set up & tear down! Minimum age: 14 or 12 w/ adult present. If interested

For more information contact: Jilisa at 269.629.9430 or email,

Clean Water for the World

Clean Water for the World is looking for 30 Walk for Water 2014 volunteers to help with organizing outreach and the walk itself.  Work as many or as few hours as you desire on the day of the event, Sat. March 22.  Must be 13 or 10 with adult.

For more information contact: Paul Flickinger, 269.254.2851 or email,





All the deets on our 2014 MLK Day of Service

2014 MLK Day of Service

In conjunction with the City of Kalamazoo and in cooperation with Fifth Third Bank, Life EMS, Schupan & Sons, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and Western Michigan University we sponsored the 13th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community-Wide Day of Service on Monday, January 20, 2014.

gospel mission kids

“It is a great experience, it brings us together!” – volunteer

It was amazing to see over 300 local volunteers come together to serve various sites across the city.  We organized this event to give opportunities for our volunteers to dedicated time & elbow grease to both strengthen our community and support our neighbors in conjunction with the National Day of Service and to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

At the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, two young siblings (picture above) were able to serve residents there with a smile on their face & a very enthusiastic, “on behalf of MLK have a great day!”

 girls painting

“It was a great experience giving back & served as a great team builder for our team!” – Volunteer

The Kalamazoo County Land Bank hosted volunteers to continue project updates on their newly under renovated Washington Square Revitalization Project.  Volunteers also cleaned, organized & painted offices at Urban Alliance, Inc.

apple sorting

“What a great way to honor the day and meet nice people!” – Volunteer

Other sites, like Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes & the Kalamazoo Deacons Conference took advantage of volunteers sorting, stacking & organizing food and other supplies.

group hug

“I loved all the opportunities to give back to our community!” – Volunteer

kleinstuck preserve mlk

For the outdoorsy types, the Stewards of Kleinstuck took advantage of volunteers who were interested in pulling & chopping invasive species from the Kalamazoo Nature Preserve.  A chilly show of support, indeed!


Many children benefited from volunteers who went to El Sol Elementary & other local elementary schools to read and interact with the kids about Dr. King’s legacy.

mayor city commissioner

After a few hours of service, many volunteers and Western Michigan University, KVCC & Kalamazoo College students gathered  to march for Dr. King to the MLK park Downtown.  The city commissioner & Mayor Bobby Hopewell gave speeches to the cold crowd who warmed up with hot chocolate.

Our day was a giant success and many residents  non-profits in the Kalamazoo County area were greatly served.  Browse more pics of our event in our Facebook album.

Thank you so much for making Kalamazoo such a special place to live, work & serve!

National Mentoring Month Opens Doors for Local Volunteers to Influence Young Lives

Guess what?  It’s  National Mentoring Month!!!

The United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo and your friendly staff here at Volunteer Kalamazoo  (UWBCKR) are encouraging area adults to get involved as mentors for young people through one of the many opportunities available in the region.


We know from research and experience that mentoring has a huge, positive impact on
young people,” said Michael Larson, President & CEO of UWBCKR.

View Volunteer Kalamazoo’s mentoring opportunities in the Kalamazoo County area.

Kids who are mentored do better in school, feel better about themselves and are far more likely to succeed in life.”
Larson cited a sobering statistic from MENTOR/The National Mentoring Partnership:  Fewer than one of every three youths in need of mentoring nationwide are in high quality mentor relationships. “That means 15 million kids who need a mentor don’t have one,” he said.  “United Way believes that a community effort involving individuals, businesses and nonprofits can fill that gap at the local level.”

National Mentoring Month is a campaign held each January to promote youth mentoring in the United States. It was inaugurated in 2002 and is spearheaded by the Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR /The National Mentoring Partnership, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.  Ways to Mentor Larson said United Way partners with and supports an array of mentoring programs throughout the area. He cited a few examples:

Big Brothers Big Sisters A Community of Caring

Part of the nation’s largest mentoring network, BBBS matches adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children ages 6 – 18  (“Littles”) in one-on-one relationships that help kids achieve their full potential.  BBBS offers an intentional, multi-faceted mentoring experience.

“Children who are mentored succeed in school, get along better with their families and are far less likely to fall into substance abuse,” said Amy Kucta, Executive Director for the regional BBBS.  Being a Big is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.”

Bob Short, a former Big, lived that experience . A retired Pfizer employee, Short mentored Stephen Ames in 1982, before the youngster moved away; nearly two decades later, Short and Ames found each other again —as fellow Pfizer employees. “Bob was that one stable person who was there for me,” said Ames. “He showed me a lot of love. ”  To learn more about BBBS, go to

Check out  Volunteer Kalamazoo’s mentoring opportunities.

Early Grade Reading Achievement Project

Begun at Battle Creek’s Verona Elementary School in 2011 by United Way, this initiative empowers adults as volunteer readers to early elementary students.  In its first year, Kindergarten students went from 5 percent reading at the proficient level or higher to 71 percent reading at proficient or higher in a single school year.  The project has since expanded to Coburn Elementary and Galesburg – Augusta.

“The numbers are pretty extraordinary, but it’s not really about numbers. It’s about what the numbers mean,” said Jennifer Nottingham, UWBCKR Assistant Director of Community Impact. “Adults are having a positive impact on kids, families are excited about reading and children are increasing their capacity to learn and succeed in school.”

The project has inspired similar volunteer reader efforts at school systems across Michigan and beyond. To find out more, contact Nottingham at 269-962-9538.

Serve one of many of  Volunteer Kalamazoo’s mentoring opportunities.

United 4 Change

United 4 Change (U4C) is a regional, business led partnership connecting students to real people and real careers through mentorships, externships and career fairs, inspiring young people to envision their future careers.  The partnership was launched in 2012 and involves nearly two dozen local businesses, intermediate school districts
and nonprofit organizations.

In honor of National Mentoring Month why not serve in Volunteer Kalamazoo’s mentoring opportunities.

Calling all Volunteer Managers!

VMT2014_01-23-2Are you new in the position of Volunteer Management?

Do you feel overwhelmed by everything there is to do, and how to get it done?
If you answered yes, our Volunteer Management Boot camp is for you!

Join us on January 23, 2014, 9am-3pm for a full day of education.

Topics will include:

  • Program Planning
  • Writing Effective Job Descriptions
  • Marketing and Recruitment
  • Orientation
  • Training volunteers
  • Supervision
  • Evaluation
  • Recognition.

Price is $125/person.  Sign up online here!

Training will be held at VOLUNTEER KALAMAZOO, 3901 Emerald Dr Ste A, Kalamazoo 49001.


Other Training Sessions Coming Soon:

Training Busy Staff to work with Volunteers

Program Planning and Writing Job Descriptions

Volunteer Recruitment & Proper Placement

Handling Volunteer Performance Problems

Learn more here!


Looking for Something Else?

Don’t forget we can bring our 90 minute workshops to your location as well.  Select from:

  • Managing Problem Volunteers
  • Creating a Teen Program
  • Program Planning
  • Writing Job Descriptions
  • Marketing
  • Recruitment & Placement
  • Orientation & Training
  • Supervision & Evaluation
  • Program Evaluation
  • Recognition
  • Or any other customization you would like!

For more information, customization or questions call Grace at 269.382.8350 x 205 or email




Celebrating our Youth Service Council

ysc species pull 2

Volunteer Kalamazoo hosts a group of high school students from local high schools who serve on our Youth Service Council (YSC)  affectionately known as “Yissick.”

Our group meets once a month to gather, plan & empower and additionally to carry out 1-2 service projects at local non-profits.

This year, Yissick chose two focus areas: caring for the environment & caring for children.  Each month, we’ll head out to The Stewards of Kleinstuck to pull invasive species from the Nature preserve wetlands and to the YWCA to help with child care & operations.

Yissick is made up of 14 students who want to -in their own words- make volunteering available for other teens, help people, be more involved in their community and find results-driven volunteering opportunities.

The team says they are motivated to see changes & to meet new people within those key networking experiences.

As  Volunteer Kalamazoo staff, we have been so inspired by being around these kids!  When asked what type of impact they hope to have for their life, they say they’d like to fully develop their potential.  They want to make a positive impact while developing new ideas so that future generations can continue to benefit from their service.  More than anything, they see the potential they have for social change and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Celebrate with us the positive impact our Youth Service Council has on our community!

Tickets are on sale now for Eat Drink Give, Volunteer Kalamazoo’s annual party.

Get your tickets today! And maybe we should mention… tickets would make an excellent holiday gift!

The party will be held Feb. 7 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel. It runs from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $60. The price increases to $70 on Jan. 24. Proceeds go to support Volunteer Kalamazoo. Giving back never tasted so good!


There will again be an after-party, also at the Radisson, starting at 10 p.m. Tickets for the after-party are $15. DJ and dancing, too!


Eat Drink Give, which is Volunteer Kalamazoo’s annual fundraising party, brings out more than 350 guests to enjoy a unique, chic and memorable evening of local goodies — food, drinks, music and fun.

The evening will feature tasty creations from the area’s top chefs, an impressive selection of wine, beer and spirits for sampling and great music from The Lana Hawkins Jazz Trio. The evening will be emceed by Andy Dominianni, Evening Anchor, Newschannel 3.

Tickets can be purchased online now.

Why does Volunteer Kalamazoo throw a party every year? Eat Drink Give is a fundraising event for Volunteer Kalamazoo. 2014 marks the 9th year for our party, formerly called Grape Expectations. The money raised through ticket sales, sponsorships, contributions from restaurant and beverage sponsors, raffle tickets, the silent auction, after party tickets and donations made at the party itself go to support the great work of Volunteer Kalamazoo. This party generates about ten percent of the total annual revenue needed to fund Volunteer Kalamazoo.

What is Volunteer Kalamazoo? We’ve been the center for volunteerism in Kalamazoo since 1965. We link people who want to volunteer to the nonprofits who need them. We educate nonprofits on how to work effectively with volunteers. We recognize and promote all the great work volunteers do in the community… and by doing so; we hope to inspire more people to volunteer. Learn more at





Where Should Nonprofits Use Volunteers? Everywhere

This post is by Tricia Thompson, vice president of training and consulting at Points of Light and was originally posted at Points of Light.  Used with permission.

service_enterprise_blog_post_photoFor every dollar nonprofits invest in effective volunteer engagement, they can expect up to $6 in return – a six-fold return on investment. Organizations that effectively engage volunteers are more adaptable, sustainable and capable of expanding. And they operate at almost half the median budget as nonprofits that don’t make full use of what volunteers have to offer.  Nonprofits that use their volunteers effectively are more
efficient and nimble.

Points of Light calls these effective nonprofits “service enterprises” – organizations that leverage volunteers across all leadership levels, in all departments, to address community needs. Research tells us fewer than 15 percent of nonprofits nationwide operate as service enterprises.

Want to become one of them?

To help more nonprofits become service enterprises, Points of Light, in collaboration with California Volunteers, is launching the Service Enterprise Initiative in select locations in 10 states (California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia). Through a comprehensive, research-backed assessment, training, consulting and certification model, nonprofits are equipped to better engage volunteers.

Rosario Di Prima, programs vice president at Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters in Los Angeles County, Calif., said the program made staff at her organization realize the different and powerful ways to incorporate volunteers.

As a result of the Service Enterprise program, Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters has increased its network of junior partners (a diverse group of skills-based volunteers, primarily young professionals) by about 20 percent, and plans to continue expanding the network.

Now, Di Prima said, “volunteers are throughout the organization.”

Since 2012, seven California volunteer centers piloted this model and have worked with more than 60 organizations. By June 2014 Points of Light will have worked with 12 other leading nonprofits to transform more than 180 nonprofit organizations into certified service enterprises.

Thanks to the leadership of CaliforniaVolunteers and the Corporation for National and Community Service for their investment and support, and thanks to TCC Group, Deloitte and University of Texas Austin for investing in the research, building the assessment tools and providing the data and analysis that built the foundation for this endeavor.

Points of Light and CaliforniaVolunteers are working with the organizations below to expand this work. If your nonprofit is in the same area as one of those linked below, you may contact the relevant organization directly to express interest in participating in the Service Enterprise Initiative. Otherwise, to learn more about the program, please email me, Tricia Thompson, at

Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership
HandsOn Central California
LA Works
The Volunteer Center Serving San Francisco and San Mateo Counties
Volunteer Center of Kern County
Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz
Volunteer Los Angeles
HandsOn Greater Richmond
HandsOn Suburban Chicago
HandsOn Twin Cities (in partnership with the Minnesota Association of Volunteer Administrators)
United Way Community Builders (in partnership with Massachusetts Service Alliance)
United Way of Central Indiana Volunteer Center
United Way of East Central Iowa (in partnership with the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service)
United Way of Johnson County (in partnership with the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service)
United Way of York County (in partnership with the Maine Commission for Community Service)
Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee (in partnership with Serve Wisconsin)
VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads
Volunteer Kalamazoo(in partnership with Michigan Nonprofit Association)
Volunteer Macon

Volunteering this Holiday Season

“Hi, I’d like to volunteer to help serve food somewhere for the holiday.  How can I do that?”


The Volunteer Center picks up the phone to hear this phrase MANY times during the months of November and December.  There is no doubt that the holiday season brings out the generosity in most people and nonprofits often experience an overabundance of volunteers…a nice problem to have.  But, it also means they have to turn willing hands away during the holiday season.

While most organizations already have their holiday opportunities filled (click here for our updated listing), here are some other ideas about ways you can give back to your community during this giving season or in the future!

Adapted from Youth Service America:

  1. Gather a group of friends and make holiday cards. Distribute the cards to nursing homes, hospitals or the VA Medical Center. (Contact your local nursing homes and hospitals to make sure they take holiday card donations.) You can also donate the cards to send to troops stationed overseas.
  2. Host a food drive and donate nonperishable food items to a local food pantry. (Find a food bank near you and call to ask them what items they’re in need of.) A few local organizations accepting food donations:
    Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes
    Family & Children Services
    Ministry with Community
    Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
    The Salvation Army
    (YSA has a food drive lesson plan on our Go To Service-Learning site that educators can use.
  3. Plan to cook and/or serve a meal at a shelter for the homeless AFTER the holidays.  Meals are needed 365 days of the year.  Make and bring table decorations, such as placemats or floral centerpieces (if allowed), to create a warm, cheerful environment for the guests.
  4. Clean out your closet and donate clothes and shoes that don’t fit you or you don’t wear any more to a family crisis center or homeless shelter. During cold months, places like this really need sweaters, coats, hats, and other winter weather gear.
  5. Sign-up to deliver meals to senior citizens through Meals on Wheels. If you’re not old enough to drive, ask your parents, guardians, older siblings, cousins, troop leader, or spiritual leader if they want to sign up and you can ride with them: Senior Services-Meals on Wheels.
  6. Turn off the lights! We use up a lot of energy during the winter season. Don’t forget to turn off the decorative lights during the day or whenever you leave your home.
  7. Organize a coat drive at your school or community center and donate your collection to a local organization:
    :::: Kalamazoo Deacons Conference
    :::: Ministry with Community
    :::: Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
    :::: The Salvation Army
    :::: YWCA
  8. Go Green! Host a present wrapping table at your local mall or wrap presents for seniors at a local senior center. Buy eco-friendly wrapping paper or reuse materials like newspaper or magazine posters to wrap gifts.
  9. Host holiday-themed story hour at a local library and read holiday classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Legend of Poinsettia (Mexican folktale).
  10. Start planning your Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service project in January 2014.  The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community. For information about Kalamazoo’s MLK Day efforts, visit our website to view updated listings or sign-up to volunteer now! Check back, as we are adding projects as we get closer to the event.

How do you plan to volunteer this Holiday Season?  Anything you are excited about doing?