Partnership adds volunteers to area nonprofits

We are so happy to have Barie Wolf-Bowen with us! Here is Si Cantwell’s article from the StarNews.

By Si Cantwell, Published Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanks to a partnership between Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations or QENO,?UNCW‘s outreach to the local nonprofit community and Americorps, VISTA volunteers have begun helping local nonprofits increase their capacity to help people.

Tira Hanrahan, 22, is working with the Carousel Center for Abused Children. A recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, she hopes to create a database to help the agency match volunteers with needed tasks. She’s also making outreach visits to some of the 15 counties whose children come to Carousel Center after suffering abuse.

Hanrahan is from Rhode Island but she’s happy to be extending her stay in the Port City.

She developed a passion for nonprofit work after someone helped her though a rough personal period.

“I wanted to be able to help other people like that individual helped me,” she said.

Barie Wolf-Bowen, 29, of Winter Park, Fla., is working with the Cape Fear Literacy Council, putting skills she learned in college and working for a public relations company to work helping the nonprofit best use its volunteers, particularly those not involved with tutoring or teaching.

Regan Stark, 22, who lives in northern Virginia, is working with Good Shepherd Center. Among her plans is revising its volunteer manual.

They arrived Nov. 5 and are just starting to get to know the organizations where they’ll spend a year.

Stark grew up in a family that prized volunteerism. She’s been helping the needy as long as she can remember.

Wolf-Bowen was doing marketing work for an organization that recruits volunteers for other nonprofits while she was working at a Florida advertising and event-management company. She increased her involvement with nonprofits after the company laid her off in 2010.

“I was transitioning to nonprofits before I was laid off,” she said.

AmeriCorps VISTA dates back to 1964. It was the brainchild of President John F. Kennedy.

The local volunteers are working to build capacity in volunteer management and community outreach.

The three volunteers I interviewed ?a fourth is working in Jacksonville and more are coming next year ?all felt that a year or more spent helping people who help others will be time well-spent.

They work for a year and have the option to sign up for a second year at the same nonprofit.

They receive health insurance and a stipend equal to 110 percent of the poverty level.

“We learn a lot about want vs. need,” Hanrahan said as the others laughed.

But she’s not sorry to be working for subsistence pay.

“I don’t look at it as a sacrifice,” she said. “A lot of my friends are living with their parents and looking for work.”

All have previous experience with nonprofits. They speak knowledgeably about the pitfalls nonprofits can stumble into.

“The thing they need to remember is that they are there to help the community,” Wolf-Bowen said. “I’m starting to see how grants control things, how paperwork controls things. Their ultimate goal is to help the low-income, not themselves.”

“It’s important that nonprofits keep their vision in mind,” Stark said. “A lot of the time when you get deep in the nitty-gritty, you lose sight of the mission. They need to look at the bigger picture.”

For information on QENO or the VISTA volunteers, call 962-2878.


Column idea? Contact Si Cantwell at 343-2364, or follow him on @SiCantwell.