Volunteering = Community

by Monica Priest, Program Manager at Volunteer Kalamazoo

monicaAs I’m preparing to volunteer at my daughter’s fifth grade carnival at school, I’m thinking of all the things I could be doing instead. Cleaning out the overflowing storage room, organizing the cluttered computer desk, or simply relaxing with a good book on the sofa. And then I am reminded of the true reason I am volunteering, to feel a part of something bigger than myself.

When we first moved to our school district, we didn’t know any of the other parents, teachers or community leaders. How do you meet these people? Where do you meet these people? We wanted to feel a part of our new community, but didn’t know how. I had always felt the volunteer “bug” and thought, why not try and meet new people by volunteering.

I enthusiastically jumped right in by signing up for the parent association board, was the dugout mom for little league, became a Girl Scout troop leader, and even took a turn at coaching AYSO soccer. I learned a lot from these experiences. Some were good, like meeting two of my best friends. Others, I leaned what doesn’t fit within my abilities like teaching five year-olds soccer when their abilities surpassed mine the first day. In the big picture, these experiences helped me meet new people, but also gave me a sense of community.

Now when I walk into my daughter’s school I hear hello’s from teachers and parents I have worked side-by-side with. Kids walk up to me and give me hugs, or wave as they hustle to their next class. I drive down Main Street and see the flowers our Girl Scout troop planted. I now feel as though I am an important and valued member of my community. So, I am off to the carnival, not because I don’t have anything better to do, but because I can’t wait to feel a part of not only my daughter’s life, but my community.

Outstanding Volunteers: Michigan Student Service Award Recipients

For high school students, studies and extra curricular activities quickly add up.  Juggling work, family commitments, sports and clubs while preparing for graduation and acing the next exam can make time scarce. Ten students in our community have distinguished themselves as examples of what dedication to service looks like by incorporating volunteerism into their daily lives. This spring, each was honored with the Michigan Student Service Award (MSSA) for volunteering over 400 hours in the community during high school.

Sponsored by the Volunteer Centers of Michigan and Volunteer Kalamazoo, these students have gone above and beyond in the community. They are leaders and advocates. Read more about each recipient below.

 Erin Clark

Erin Clark

Hackett Catholic Central High School student Erin Clark volunteered 425 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • Catholic Charities
  • St. Monica Catholic School
  • Renucci House
  • Hackett Catholic Central.
 Harrison Goscenski

Harrison Goscenski

Hackett Catholic Central High School student Harrison Goscenski volunteered 570 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul
  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Ministry with Community
  • St. Mary’s Catholic Church
 Collin Tran

Collin Tran

Hackett Catholic Central High School student Collin Tran volunteered 405 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • St. Mary’s Catholic Church
  • Borgess Medical Center
  • The Salvation Army
  • Vineyard Academy
 Michael Elluru

Michael Elluru

Hackett Catholic Central High School student Michael Elluru volunteered 420 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • The Luke Society
  • St. Catherine of Sienna
  • Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center
  • Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
  • Ministry with Community
  • Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Taryn Withers

Kalamazoo Central High School student Taryn Withers volunteered 802 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • Kalamazoo Nature Center
  • Michigan Blood
  • Indian Prairie Elementary School
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Kitu Komya

Portage Central High School student Kitu Komya volunteered 844 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • Oakwood Neighborhood Association
  • Portage District Library
  • Portage Youth Advisory Council
  • Hospitality House of Southwest Michigan
  • Michigan Festival of Sacred Music.

Rachel Polus

Rachel Polus

Portage Central High School student Rachel Polus volunteered 527 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • Kalamazoo Nature Center
  • Department of Human Services
  • Portage Central Middle School
  • Curious Kids.
 Genevieve Sertic

Genevieve Sertic

Portage Central High School student Genevieve Sertic volunteered 627 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • Kalamazo Bird Sanctuary
  • Kalamazoo Nature Center
  • Portage Youth Advisory Committee
  • Portage District Library
  • Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center
  • Volunteer Kalamazoo.
 Maya Ganapathy

Maya Ganapathy

Portage Northern High School student Maya Ganapathy volunteered 457 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • American Red Cross
  • Portage District Library
  • Animal Rescue Project
  • Borgess Medical Center.
 Morgan Macfarlane

Morgan Macfarlane

Schoolcraft High School student Morgan Macfarlane volunteered 714 hours at nonprofit organizations that include:

  • Little Lambs Learning Center
  • Faith, Fun & Fine Arts Camp
  • Portage District Library
  • Adam’s Kids
  • Kalamazoo Nature Center
  • Volunteer Kalamazoo.


AmeriCorps*VISTA Position Available


Apply to be an AmeriCorps*VISTA at Volunteer Kalamazoo!

Do you know an extraordinary individual looking to make a difference in the community while gaining valuable experience? The Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) Civic Engagement AmeriCorps*VISTA program is recruiting an enthusiastic community member to serve full time at Volunteer Kalamazoo from August 2014 – August 2015. Apply Here by June 20!

Duties include:

  • Provide training and support to teachers in area K-12 schools to develop service and service-learning projects that will mobilize student volunteers and resources to local nonprofit agencies addressing poverty reduction.
  • Facilitate student engagement in the Kalamazoo community, as well as student and teacher knowledge of service-learning and poverty.
  • Seek local media attention to highlight service-learning and volunteer efforts in the community.
  • Increase financial stability and sustainability of youth volunteer efforts.
  • Track volunteers recruited and service/service-learning projects completed by local youth volunteers or community members who volunteer in area K-12 schools.

Serving a year as an MNA AmeriCorps*VISTA provides valuable personal and professional development, community connections, opportunities for leadership and initiative, and a living stipend and education award. Applicants should apply by June 20 for consideration.

For more information and to apply, visit: http://mnaonline.org/mnacivicengagementvistaprogram.aspx.



Attention Nonprofits: Skilled Based Volunteers Want to Help

With financial resources continuing to be stretched and with the rise of volunteers desiring to make a more meaningful impact, nonprofits need a solution to increase their capacity while maintaining a positive experience for their volunteers. Enter skills-based volunteering. Skills-based volunteerism (SBV) leverages the skills, experience, talents and education of volunteers and matches them with the needs of the nonprofits. SBV can involve an individual offering their expertise to a nonprofit or a group of employee volunteers working on projects through a structured program. For a comprehensive overview of SBV, you can download Skills-Based Volunteering: A New Generation of Service (PDF).

Volunteer Kalamazoo is committed to helping nonprofits in the Kalamazoo area increase their capacity through volunteerism. One area that we are working to expand is skills-based volunteerism. Recently, we were approached by the local association of Human Resource professionals to design a day of service that would benefit our nonprofit partners. So if you were ever wondering how to engage skills-based volunteers in your organization, this program is for you.

The Kalamazoo Human Resource Management Association (KHRMA) is interested in providing an HR Day of Service in July (learn more about them at www.khrma.org). Do you need help with a compliance issue? Are your personnel files a mess? Do you want to discuss a hiring strategy or other HR strategy? Do you have benefits questions? These are a few of the examples of areas in which non-profits can request assistance from an HR professional for whatever HR concerns they may have. A KHRMA member will be available for a 2 hour period to assist you, and Volunteer Kalamazoo will be assisting with the sign up process and promotion.  If you think you may be interested in utilizing a KHRMA member, please let Volunteer Kalamazoo know as soon as possible along with the area you wish to have assistance with.  The deadline for applying will be May 31, 2014 extended until June 13, 2014.  Once registration is complete, a KHRMA member will be assigned and will contact you directly to schedule a date and time.


Why I Volunteer


Brian ThomasVolunteering is this incredible proposition that sits directly at the intersection of self-interest and the public good.  When you volunteer there’s the obvious good that comes from whatever you’re doing, whether it’s feeding the hungry or painting a mural or planting a tree, but that’s not where the good stops.  On top of those obvious benefits, the town you live in becomes that much better of a place to live.  Your neighborhood is that much stronger for the care you put into it.  Your example inspires others.  Best of all, it makes you feel really good to get off of the sidelines and go from observer to active participant.  It’s a win-win in the best possible sense of the term.

To give an example from my own experience, I used to volunteer teaching basic lifeguarding and rescue skills to Boy Scouts at a summer camp here in Michigan.  One summer, we had a ‘Lone Scout’ (a Boy Scout that doesn’t belong to a Troop) stay with us at camp for several weeks in a row, rather than the usual one week.  During his extended time at camp he worked his way through every one of the courses available at the Waterfront, and in a short time, we saw this scout both acquire new skills and grow into a more confident young man.  This scout took and passed my Lifesaving merit badge class in his final week at the camp.  Less than a year later he was awarded the Boy Scout Medal of Honor for Saving Life, one of the highest awards a scout can receive, after pulling a man from a burning truck and performing CPR until paramedics arrived. It’s difficult to put into words just how fortunate I feel to have played a role in this young man’s life.

That happy, thankful feeling.  That’s why I volunteer.

Science keeps telling us that it’s not just in our heads either, there are genuine health benefits to performing acts of kindness and giving.  It doesn’t just feel good, it’s actually good for you.  What’s not to love?

Volunteer Kalamazoo is Hiring


Volunteer Kalamazoo is currently taking applications for a Program Manager. Applications/resumes will be accepted through May 12, 2014. Interested candidates should send application, resume, and cover letter to Carrie Vanderbush, Executive Director, at carrie@volunteerkalamazoo.org or send/drop off to Volunteer Kalamazoo, 3901 Emerald Dr, Suite A, Kalamazoo 49001.

Click here for an Application (.doc)
Click here for Job Description (.doc)

Our Mission:

Volunteer Kalamazoo builds capacity for effective local volunteering, connects people with opportunities to volunteer and promotes volunteerism in our community. For more information on our programs and services, please visit volunteerkalamazoo.org.

Global Youth Service Day

logo_gysd vk 2014 2

Volunteer Kalamazoo’s, Global Youth Service Day on April 26, 2014!


Volunteer Kalamazoo and the Youth Service Council are sponsoring Global Youth Service Day activities on Saturday, April 26th 2014 in Kalamazoo! Join us for this amazing event empowering youth to organize and do good in their communities!

One of the major goals of this day of service is to help young people give back to their community and to see how each individual can make a real difference.  GYSD is the single largest volunteer event in the world with over 135 countries participating!

Organizations around Kalamazoo County (listed below) are providing opportunities for you to get involved in this global initiative! Family, youth, teens & students will join volunteers across the world to give back and sow the seeds of positive change in their neighborhoods, cities, and landscapes.

Want to join the world for a day of service? Sign up here!

389048_574420162591861_810736804_nAvailable projects:


Want to sign up for a Global Youth Service Day Project? You can here!

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, lvcnj@sbcglobal.net.

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, snookt@fvknet.com.

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 assehosts.com 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, kathleenthomasasse@gmail.com

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, sjoshi@colleaguesinternational.org.

 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, katherine@portagecommunitycenter.net

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, roxanna@hispanicamericancouncil.org

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,  jilisa@richlandareacc.org.

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, flickingerpaul@yahoo.com