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Virtual Volunteering Satisfying
by
Greg Gore

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With the advent of the personal computer and the Internet, vast new opportunities are available for volunteering. The Salvation Army is one well-known and well-respected organization that has embraced the concepts of "virtual volunteering" and "e-volunteering."

Throughout its 135-year history, the Salvation Army has been on the cutting edge of innovation. Indeed, in a recent Forbes article (August 11, 1997), Peter Drucker described the Salvation Army as "by far the most effective organization in the U.S. No one even comes close to it in respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication and putting money to maximum use."

The West Chester Salvation Army Corps Community Center engages virtual volunteers in its mission to meet the social and spiritual needs of people in the local community. The local center at 101 East Market Street is one of approximately 1300 Corps Community Centers. Each center develops and finances all of its own activities through local fundraising. The local center offers worship services and spiritual guidance under the direction of Majors Jerry and Susan Stinson, both ordained Salvation Army Officers. In addition, the center provides safe, temporary lodging for homeless men, serves meals, distributes food to the needy, and offers social assistance enabling clients to become self-sufficient and productive members of the community. In 1999, The West Chester Salvation Army Corps Community Center distributed 60 tons of food and served over 17,000 meals.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Salvation Army and are considered to be "non-paid staff." Just for the month of October, 486 different volunteers donated over 2600 hours.

Victoria McDonald, Coordinator of Volunteers for the local center, uses the computer and the Internet to recruit, train, and assign volunteers. Virtual volunteers are recruited through such web sites as servenet.org and volunteernet.org.

 

"Virtual volunteering allows volunteers to contribute their time, talent, and skills at a time and place convenient for them. While medical conditions may prevent someone from being a bell ringer for the familiar Salvation Army red kettle program during the Christmas season or serving as a food boxer for one of the food drives, he or she can be a virtual volunteer and help with administrative tasks such as preparing mailings and mailing lists. In short, virtual volunteering offers tremendous flexibility and almost limitless opportunities for volunteers," says Victoria.

"Thankfully, the 'digital divide' between the rich and poor is gone. Now that other not-for-profit organizations such as the Chester County Interlink (CCIL) offer free internet services and the Chester County Library offers free computer and Internet access, even the economically challenged citizens in our community can become virtual volunteers," she adds.

Victoria uses the software package, Volunteer Works, to help her manage the volunteer program. Using the package she can keep track of the special needs and schedules of the volunteers.

 "I want to add that the need for our services continues to grow with the closing of more and more institutions for the mentally, behaviorally, developmentally, emotionally, and physically challenged. We are always looking for volunteers because the work of the Salvation Army will never be completed," emphasizes Victoria.

For more information on becoming a virtual volunteer or a regular volunteer for the Salvation Army, call Victoria McDonald at 610-696-8746, e-mail her at mcdvicki@aol.com, and/or visit the West Chester Salvation Army web site at www.thesalvationarmy.org.

__________

The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (www.GregGore.com)

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on December 3, 2000. Greg Gore can be reached at gg@GregGore.com.

2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.