National Volunteer Week, Sunday through Saturday, April 21 to 27, is a time to celebrate people doing extraordinary things through service. Established in 1974, it focuses national attention on the impact and power of volunteerism and service as an integral aspect of our civic leadership. The week draws the support and endorsement of the president and Congress, governors, mayors and municipal leaders, as well as corporate and community groups across the country.
On our island, HandsOn Maui, a program of the County of Maui Volunteer Center, provides a Website and virtual volunteer center that inspires, equips and mobilizes volunteers to make a difference in their community. HandsOn Maui, an affiliate of a nationwide HandsOn Network, is a place where volunteer organizations recruit help each day of the year and people find ways to serve.
"There are no limits to the opportunities we can find to help," said Mayor Alan Arakawa. "Picking up a piece of litter in a parking lot, driving a house-bound senior to the grocery store, or planting native seedlings--each time we volunteer, we give a priceless gift to the community."
“The goal of HandsOn Maui is to successfully connect volunteers to community organizations,” said Wendy Stebbins, Volunteer Center coordinator for the Department of Housing and Human Concerns.
Photo courtesy of HandsOn Maui
"The Volunteer Center has been instrumental in educating and calling out to the much-needed volunteers," said Jan Shishido, deputy director of the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns. "HandsOn Maui is making that connection for our many agencies."
"Residents and visitors alike are welcome to search our Website for short- or long-term volunteer opportunities," said Wendy L. Stebbins, Volunteer Center coordinator for the Department of Housing and Human Concerns.
Stebbins, who received her Master's in Public Health at the University of Hawai'i, Manoa, became the Volunteer Center's coordinator in 2007 and is also currently serving as the vice president of the Hawai'i Network of Volunteer Leaders.
"I help provide optimum advancement of volunteerism, including recruitment and effective utilization of volunteers to meet community needs," said Stebbins.
Her job includes assisting local nonprofit volunteer programs and professional development in volunteer leadership and management. In addition, she helps the agencies understand that the role of the Volunteer Center is to support their respective missions and services through expanding volunteerism.
"I believe people change the world with being kind and giving back," said Stebbins, who personally tries to help others every day in small ways. "Volunteering to me is about believing in miracles and watching life get better for others and in turn for myself."
As a volunteer manager from 2000 to 2005 in Waikiki, Stebbins learned firsthand about the lifeline that volunteers provide for the isolated elderly. In her current position, Stebbins hopes to help other organizations with their volunteer programs.
The Volunteer Center works in partnership with community-based nonprofit agencies to provide volunteers with a variety of meaningful opportunities for service and leadership. The center also offers workshops and training for those new to the field.
The HandsOn Maui Website connects organizations with volunteers. Prospects are advertised to the hundreds of volunteers who visit the Website each week. Opportunities in the searchable database are posted by interest, talents and skills to help direct volunteers to the service that's right for them--whether it be one-time or ongoing projects.
"You can quickly and easily sign up," said Stebbins. "We can connect you to over 75 community organizations that need your help."
"HandsOn Maui serves as the Match.com for loving Maui residents to offer their support and hearts to people and projects in need of a helping hand," said Gerri Shapiro, executive director of Neighbors Helping Neighbors and member of the County of Maui Volunteer Center Advisory Board.
"Neighbors Helping Neighbors provides volunteers to help seniors remain independent and in their own homes," said Shapiro.
"My volunteer takes me to doctor's appointments and grocery shopping. She helps me in every way and has largely been responsible for getting my life back on track, at 86!" said a client.
The gift of volunteering works both ways. Maui resident Kaipo Thomas was recently awarded the County of Maui Volunteer Hero Award. Always thinking of others, he is being recognized for his outstanding service and commitment to the community.
Thomas distributes food to the needy and has facilitated numerous service projects for Maui's Upcountry schools. Additionally, he has spent countless hours mentoring and counseling our youth in the values of character and good ethics.
"I have had so many blessings in my life," said Thomas, who is the Musical and Youth Director at Waipuna Chapel in Kula. "It is my heart's responsibility to give back to the community."
Thomas and other Volunteer Heroes will be honored during April's 2013 National Volunteer Week Celebration of Service in the Mayor's Conference Room.
The public is invited to sign up as a volunteer or organization with HandsOn Maui and search the many ways to connect to the community.
Gandhi said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."