None of us are perfect. We all stumble and have to overcome challenges. Many of us are lucky to have a strong support system of family and friends, and the money to access the help we need. But what happens to someone facing big obstacles without the resources and knowledge they need to change their path in life? Read on to learn how one local woman, Victoria, changed her life’s story through personal determination and support from our United Way.
When Victoria was 8, she asked Santa for a home of her own. At the time, her parents were going through a divorce and her mother and siblings were living in a shelter until the divorce was finalized.
Fast forward a few years and Victoria was a teen mom, determined to give her own child a good start in life, and knew that she needed a high school diploma to build a stable future. Thanks to a local United Way grant-funded program, Victoria received home visits that helped her learn about child development and schedule regular doctor visits for her and her daughter. “It meant a lot that I had someone to count on,” Victoria says. She received the support and guidance she needed to stay in school.
After graduation from high school, Victoria juggled parenthood with working two jobs, and then attended CATEC to become a CNA. By then she was 19 and had her own apartment. But Victoria had even bigger goals for herself and applied to Habitat for Humanity to become a homeowner. Wanting to increase her career possibilities, she enrolled in PVCC’s Pharmacy Technician program and completed it within 3 months. It took a year before she found a position in the field, at the Kroger pharmacy at Rio Hill. A conversation with a customer led to a new position at the UVA Medical Center and the steady hours and income she needed for her Habitat for Humanity homeownership dream to come true. She and her daughter moved into their new home on December 23, 2009 – in time to hang stockings for her old friend, Santa Claus.
When her second daughter arrived, Victoria was concerned how she was going to pay for child care. That is when she learned about our United Way’s Child Care Scholarship program for low-income working parents. Equally as important to Victoria was that her daughter be in a good quality program that would prepare her for success in school. When her daughter started public preschool this year, our United Way has continued to provide assistance for after-school care.
In five years, Victoria would like to be either starting or finishing nursing school, with an ultimate goal of being a labor and delivery nurse. She would not be on this journey with her daughters without the help of donors like you who have supported our United Way, enabling us to make grants to the home visiting program that helped her stay in school and care for her daughter as a teen mom. Our own Child Care Scholarship program helped her continue to be self-sufficient, while her daughter got off to a great start in a quality educational child care program.
“I want to say ‘Thank you’ for helping moms like me who want to strive to do better in life,” Victoria says. “And I want other moms in my situation to know that there is always help – don’t give up.”
Our United Way has deep roots in this community. We envision a strong, healthy and vibrant community that helps people rise above challenges to reach their full potential. We focus on School Readiness, Self-Sufficiency, and Community Health so that everyone can learn, grow, and live their best lives. We can do this because of the generous support of our donors.
You can help more people like Victoria and her daughters reach their full potential. Please make a gift today.
Published by: Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement
The sun was shining, and with temperatures in the low 70s, our 23rd annual United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring on September 17 was a tremendous success! Nearly 1,900 volunteers from more than 60 local businesses and organizations (including the University of Virginia) fanned out over five counties to work on almost 200 projects at local nonprofits and schools.
Playgrounds were spiffed up, many rooms and buildings were painted, trails were cleared and storage areas organized. At our own office, volunteers from Charlottesville Newsplex sorted and packed 100 backpacks with educational learning activities for children receiving our United Way Child Care Scholarships. We loaned our playground stencils to an elementary school to create games on their blacktop.
Our vision is to help local people overcome challenges to realize their potential so that they can learn, grow and live happy and healthy lives. The many wonderful volunteers on our Day of Caring helped local nonprofits and schools so that they in turn could be more effective in helping people.
The energy and happiness of all these folks was evident at our wonderful kickoff breakfast rally, thanks to the terrific spread put on by the breakfast sponsor, The Fresh Market.
Please visit our Facebook page to see many photos shared from the day.
We can’t wait for next year!
Posted by: Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement
Our 23rd annual United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring is September 17, 2014. We have spent the summer working with local nonprofits and schools who have submitted their project needs, and with the 100+ teams of volunteers from local businesses and organizations. The level of enthusaism from both sides never fails to impress us. Nonprofits are thrilled to have their walls painted, grounds landscaped, closets organized, trails clears, playgrounds refreshed and so much more. The volunteers are looking forward to getting out into the communities where they work and live and working as teams to accomplish needed tasks.
Our sponsor, Charlottesville Newsplex, created this public service announcement about this year's United Way Day of Caring. We are looking forward to September 17 and seeing so many people involved in volunteering.
Submitted by: Kim Connolly
What a summer it has been! Here I am reflecting on my internship experience with United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area, but it still seems unreal that eight weeks have flown by. During my time here I worked mostly on data analysis and management, but also had opportunities to learn about community engagement, grant writing and project management. As a Global Development Studies (GDS) and Statistics double major at U.Va., my internship with the United Way was the perfect fit for me.
A key project I worked on this summer was analyzing survey data for United Way’s free tax preparation and prescription assistance programs. United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area takes the feedback of its beneficiaries very seriously in improving its programs. An issue that GDS majors often discuss is accountability, as the views of program recipients can sometimes be overshadowed by opinions of donors and staff members. Surveys can help counter this by allowing program recipients to evaluate the services they are receiving. The statistical side of me also enjoys crunching numbers and translating them into meaningful conclusions on how effective the programs were. I have been challenged by United Way’s impact - or outcome - based approach to evaluating both grant applications and its own programs. It is a testament to United Way’s self-critical lens, as well as the power and importance of information.
Throughout my internship I was also able to attend meetings with other agencies, where I found out about what they do and how the United Way is working with them. United Way embraces collaboration as a powerful way to meet the needs of the community. Rather than reinventing the wheel (another concern that GDS majors often discuss), United Way often redirects needs to other agencies that may already have existing programs in place. It has an Information and Referral Center that refers callers to services provided by other agencies, and it also linked up Walmart with the Salvation Army when the company wanted to organize a school supplies donation drive.
Fundamentally, the United Way is committed to community engagement. This often involves pairing up volunteers with projects that would best tap their interests and talents. Even as an intern, I was given a lot of say in what meetings I wanted to tag along on and which staff members I wanted to shadow. I even got to go on a local radio show one week to talk about my internship! United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area truly celebrates differences and collaboration, tapping into the various things people and agencies bring to the table to make the biggest impact.
Of course, the best part of the internship was how much I enjoyed getting to know the staff at United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area. Over the past eight weeks, I met passionate and dedicated individuals who so warmly welcomed and mentored me. They have truly inspired me to become more active and engaged in the world around me, and I now want more than ever to explore a future career in the nonprofit sector. Thank you all for a wonderful summer internship experience!
Posted by: Bernice Tay, United Way Summer Intern
Buying back to school supplies is a rite of passage for kids and their parents. But when you are living paycheck to paycheck that once a year expense can put a big dent in a family's budget.
When the Charlottesville Walmart store contacted our office about holding a Stuff the Bus school supply drive during Virginia's Tax Free Weekend August 1 - 3, we were happy to help. In fact, we suggested that the store partner with the Salvation Army because they already run a school supply drive for kids who qualify for free and reduced lunches in Charlottesville City schools and Albemarle County Schools. We encourage partnerships, so this seemed like a perfect match.
If you can't make it to Walmart between August 1 - 3, the community-wide drive continues until August 11. Volunteers are also needed Monday August 11 through Thursday August 14 from 10 - 2 at the Salvation Army gym to help sort and pack the supplies to go to the schools. If you can put in a few hours on any day, please call the Salvation Army at 295.5058, ext. 114.
Posted by: Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement
Finally, some good news for college grad job seekers.
Forbes recently pulled together 15 career experts and asked them to share interview tips for college grads. According to one career expert from LinkedIn, 42% of hiring managers say, “they view volunteer experience equivalent to formal work experience.” (So feel free to breathe a huge sigh of relief if you, like me, can’t afford the path of unpaid internships to build your resume after college.)
But this news is a huge win for Millennial job seekers! As a generation, we’re already civic-minded, which apparently sets us on a great path to landing a future job. But it isn’t as easy as “I volunteered in college – I’ll take one job, please!” So how can you use your experience wisely?
1. Numbers, stats and specificity will impress more than vague references.
While employers love the idea of hiring altruistic and kind people, it isn’t enough to set a candidate apart from the rest of the pack. So on your resume, list out specific actions you took that yielded specific results for your cause, along with exact numbers for the inputs (what you put into the project), outputs (what came out of your activity), and a description of the outcomes (the change in condition felt by the people or community you served). Be ready to expand on those numbers during your interview.
2. Use examples that show you can do THIS job well.
If you’re telling the same story the same way in every job interview, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Identify the core competencies the employer wants to see from an applicant and talk up those aspects of a volunteer project. Let’s say you helped execute a massive fundraising campaign on your campus. At times, you probably had to coordinate a lot of moving pieces for events. At other times, you may have had to use your communication skills to persuade people to take a certain kind of action (which is an actual prompt I have used in behavioral interviews, by the way). Figure out what skills the interviewer wants to hear about and focus your answer on those skills.
3. Seek out employers who will value your experience.
Service corps like Americorps and Teach for America, government agencies, issue campaigns, and nonprofits like us here at United Way are extremely interested in hiring applicants with relevant volunteer experience. And for-profit companies value volunteer experience, too. Every year Deloitte hosts an Alternative Spring Break with United Way where high-performing underclassmen spend a week volunteering alongside Deloitte’s young professionals and partners. Deloitte gets to see how students perform working in teams to improve lives. And students—who we know want to work for a socially responsible employer—get a chance to peek inside Deloitte’s awesome, community-focused culture. It’s a win-win, especially considering so many students from this ASB program now work for Deloitte.
4. Use your volunteer opportunities as a chance to network.
It’s a fact of life: landing your dream job can sometimes boil down to who you know. Hiring managers are pressed for time, often reviewing hundreds of resumes. So when you meet people, leave a positive lasting impression on them. It may help ensure your resume gets a second look and may lead to a foot in the door. So next time you’re volunteering, get to know the staff. See if you can interact with their executive director. Tell them you’re looking for jobs and ask if they know anyone at X, Y and Z employers. Some of the most powerful people in your community sit on the boards of local nonprofits. By volunteering, you could be stepping into a very influential network. Leverage it!
5. Make your volunteering count.
No one will hire you if you describe your volunteering experience as, “I sat at the front desk and answered the phone one day.” With every volunteer opportunity, you have the chance to support a cause you’re passionate about, change someone’s life, grow as a leader and refine your skills. Take it seriously and give it your all!
Happy job hunting!
To learn more about local volunteer opportunities, visit www.CvilleVolunteer.org or call Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement at 434-972-1701.
Guest post by: Edwin Goutier, Manager of Student United Way at United Way Worldwide.
Our United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring may not be until September 17, however we are fielding daily emails and phone calls about agency projects and volunteer teams. Although the event is a couple of months away, coordinating the anticipated 2,300 volunteers with the 200+ projects from more than 100 local schools and nonprofit agencies does require lots of advance time.
This year we hope the process will be that much smoother, thanks to our updated CvilleVolunteer.org website and the ability for teams and agencies to register online. The deadline for registering is July 23, and on August 13, the teams can select their preferred projects on a first-come, first serve basis, again by using the website. We hope that will eliminate our need for the monster spreadsheets we have used in the past.
Most importantly, our United Way Day of Caring means that local nonprofit agencies and schools will be introduced to teams of volunteers from local businesses and organizations that want to give back to their community in meaningful ways. We hope that many will be inspired to return to those agencies to volunteer year-round.
To learn more, visit www.DayofCaring.info, or call Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement, at 434-972-1701.