Happy National Volunteer Week! This week has been a time to celebrate the amazing things that volunteers do for our community. This week is a time to thank our volunteers. This week also serves as a time to think about ways to get involved in the community!
Take time to think about your volunteer service. Maybe you love your volunteer commitments, but could bring along a friend the next time you volunteer. Perhaps you could take some time to plan to volunteer with your family and share your passion with your children. Maybe you want to begin to get involved in the community and want to find an opportunity to give your time to help others. For any volunteer need, you can check out our Volunteer Center website for a list of opportunities or contact our Volunteer Center Director for help finding something to fit your schedule and interests.
Join us in celebrating National Volunteer Week by finding a way to volunteer or encouraging others to volunteer! Visit a nursing home. Sign up to deliver meals. Become a mentor. Join a board. Volunteer on a committee. Become an advocate for neglected or abused children. Teach your children about volunteerism. However you choose to get involved, know that you are making a difference and we appreciate you!
Posted by: Jessica Snyder, Volunteer Center Director
National Volunteer Week reminds us to take a moment to thank the people who pour time, sweat, and cheer into our organizations to further our impact in the community. It is a great time to reflect on all that volunteers make possible for our nonprofits and to celebrate their hard work. At our local United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area, we have no shortage of wonderful volunteers to thank!
To all of our Board members and Impact Team members, we say thank you! Thank you for your commitment to making our community a healthier, stronger and safer place. Thank you for spending hours reading grant applications, researching the needs of our community, and sharing your passion for helping others.
To our Community Executives, Volunteer Council and other committee members, we say thank you! Thank you for educating local companies about the needs of our community. Thank you for recruiting new volunteers and sharing your enthusiasm with others.
To our Day of Caring volunteers and all of the other volunteers who work with other local nonprofits, we say thank you! Thank you for caring about our neighbors. Thank you for delivering meals. Thank you for mentoring children. Thank you for visiting the elderly. Thank you for walking dogs and socializing cats. Thank you for designing websites and stuffing envelopes. Thank you for making phone calls and painting walls. Thank you for giving your time and talents to make the lives of others brighter.
Take time to thank your friends, family and co-workers who volunteer this week. Take time to encourage others to get involved in a volunteer activity. Happy National Volunteer Week!
In Virginia, the debate over Medicaid expansion has dominated the news lately.
In the Charlottesville area, the Greater Charlottesville Health Coalition has been working to help local residents understand the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and walk them through the application process. As the March 31 enrollment deadline approaches, we’d like to reflect on what we have been able to accomplish. Jessie Ray, who runs special projects for our United Way, coordinated the efforts of the Coalition and the group’s CvilleEnrolls.org website.
Jessie confirms that because of the well-known early issues with HealthCare.gov, local enrollment got off to a rough start, but by early December most of the site’s features were in working order and the Coalition members were able to help a number of people get enrolled. The Coalition members knew that many people needed basic information on how health insurance works, and they also needed to address many misperceptions about the Affordable Care Act. Jessie and volunteer Jack Hanrahan held several informational presentations at local library branches.
Health Care Navigators from Legal Aid, plus trained enrollment counselors from JABA, ASG and United Way worked together to get as many people enrolled as possible before the Dec 23rd deadline for coverage that began on January 1, 2014. The Coalition estimates that between 125-150 people were enrolled through Coalition partners before the end of 2013.
The people seeking insurance have a variety of backgrounds. Many people we have helped are self-employed and have not had insurance for several years due to the cost. In addition, Jessie has helped several people who had pre-existing conditions and were able to sign up with the help of the subsidies. We also saw a number of older clients who don't yet qualify for Medicare but don't qualify for insurance through work either
Jessie helped one self-employed couple in their early 60s who now have health insurance for the first time in years, only paying $22/month for both of them. The wife later wrote that they were thrilled to have help navigating the process and that it was comforting to have the confidence that they were filling everything out correctly. And they were excited to finally have health insurance.
Another person Jessie helped wrote: "My wife and I have had separate insurance policies because of her pre-existing condition. I found her a plan on the exchange with premiums that are about half the cost of her current plan and the coverage is much better. Based on my estimates of our current use of medical care, this new plan will save us close to $10,000 a year."
It is important to note that many people still have not benefitted from the Affordable Care Act, in part because Virginia has not expanded Medicaid. In addition, for those people with chronic illnesses requiring frequent doctor visits, they have found that office visit copays are unaffordable with the lowest premium plans. We will be sharing an article from the Charlottesville Free Clinic that addresses these concerns in our next post.
Posted by: Kim Connolly
Last week, our office celebrated International Random Acts of Kindness Week by committing to taking time to share kindness with others and by encouraging the Charlottesville community to join us in our efforts. Our staff really enjoyed participating in the week and we heard some great stories of kindness. I wanted to share a few of our favorite stories from the week.
From our Earned Income Tax Preparation Program:
With an impending snowstorm, Martha Trujillo, our Community Services Manager, took it upon herself to ask last Thursday’s volunteers if they would be willing to come earlier in the week. Martha and our Information and Referral Specialist, Megan Borishansky, called all taxpayers scheduled for Thursday and offered them the opportunity to come in two days earlier because of the predicated snow. She solved a problem before it happened. Because our appointments are so booked up at The Jefferson School (no appointments available until mid-March), these folks were still serviced despite the snow.
Some other stories from staff and the community:
A staff member invited someone with fewer items to get in line in front of them at the grocery store.
A community member had her driveway cleared by an unknown good Samaritan.
Our staff put sticky notes with positive messages on the desks of three staff members who were sick last week.
Cars were given room to pull out on busy roads.
A care package was sent to a college student.
A staff member had a long phone conversation with and old friend with whom she had lost touch.
Someone became a mentor to a teenager with interests in her previous career field.
As you can see, random acts of kindness can be big or small. No matter how long it takes or how much thought is put into the act, the fact is that it makes our community a happier place. I encourage you to not stop thinking of ways to be kind to others now that the week is over. Take this as an opportunity to commit to volunteering or to just take a few moments each day or week to brighten the day of someone else.
Posted by: Jessica Snyder
All week, we’ll be sharing our own experiences of performing random acts of kindness. Today’s blog is from two of our staff members, who are reflecting on Random Acts of Kindness that they have benefitted from.
One staff member shared that she was recently a recipient of a Random Act of Kindness after her son had surgery. It was a Saturday night around 11:30, and her baby woke up screaming with a high fever. She and her husband were worried, because her son had undergone surgery just 36 hours earlier, so they called 911.The wonderful people at CARS (Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad) responded quickly and were so kind. A friend’s husband is a volunteer at CARS and he happened to be there that night and heard the call come in. He mentioned the call to his wife and she dropped off a wonderful breakfast care package the next morning. The breakfast care package was so thoughtful!
Another staff member shared an experience her son had over the summer. She said that her cash-strapped college age son and his friend had received free tickets to Busch Gardens last summer from a former teacher who could not use them. Halfway through their day at the park, a couple of strangers came up to them and said that they were leaving for the day, and gave them their Quick Queue passes. Their fun quotient for the day quadrupled as they were now able to bypass the long lines for each ride! They will always remember that random act of kindness.
All week, we’ll be sharing our own experiences of performing random acts of kindness. Today’s blog is from our Volunteer Center Director, who is taking inspiration from becoming a mom as she participates in Random Acts of Kindness Week.
Being a first time mom to a six month old, I spend the majority of my days covered in drool, making funny faces, and serving as a trampoline for a baby boy who loves to jump. It is the most amazing experience of my life. But, the days seem to fly by so fast and it’s hard to grab a moment to reflect and enjoy the little things that go along with raising a tiny person. In taking a moment to think about some random acts of kindness, I drew my inspiration from my life as a mom and the women who have inspired me on this journey.
This week, I’ve decided to send some hand written letters to some moms with small children in my life. Just to say things like: You are beautiful. You are an amazing mom. You make being a new mom look easy. You are a natural. Your daughter is the happiest child. I love the way you teach your daughters to use sign language during the hymns at church. Your children are so polite and kind to others. You’ve been an inspiration to me as a mom.
It’s such a simple act, but it can mean so much. Any parent can understand how hectic life can get with packing diaper bags, making sure nap times happen, keeping track of tiny baby socks. We all could use a moment during the day to know that someone noticed our efforts or that the love we’ve poured into raising children is making a difference. I hope that these moms get a moment to smile and feel good about the amazing jobs they are doing with their children this week!
Post by: Jessica Snyder
All week, we’ll be sharing our own experiences of performing random acts of kindness. Today’s blog is from our Volunteer Center Director’s husband, who is also enjoying the celebration of Random Acts of Kindness Week.
Just the other day, I sat in a coffee shop working on my laptop. As we all know, it's pretty easy to get caught up in our own work and not pay much attention to those around us. While taking a quick break from my emails, I noticed a college student clearly frustrated and struggling with an assignment.
I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and ask him if he was okay. He shared that he had just started a difficult math class and was stuck on a word problem. After reviewing the problem, I remembered sessions that I had with a tutor in high school and a trick she had taught me to easily remember how to solve this exact type of equation. I shared it with the student and together, we were able to work through the assignment.
It may seem insignificant, but that moment meant a lot to both of us. The student was able to complete his assignment and will remember the trick that my tutor taught me many years ago. And I will now carry with me that feeling of joy in helping someone and the reminder that stepping away from the laptop in a busy coffee shop to share a smile or say hello can really make an impact on someone.
Posted by: Jessica Snyder