Thanks to technology that matches local charities with people willing to lend a hand, volunteers in McKinney can sign up to help their favorite cause. It’s as easy as scanning the computer and clicking a mouse.
The spark of invention that led to McKinney charities using a new Internet platform called Meet the Need started 10 years ago in Atlanta with a man named Jim Morgan. He went to his church to ask how he could make a difference in the community, saying he wanted to volunteer outside the church walls. “The sad truth was, at that time, they had no answers for me,” he says.
With an extensive business background, Morgan thought that “if people can shop online for something to buy, why can’t they shop online for something they want to give away, or a place to serve?”
That was the inspiration for Meet the Need, an Internet-based solution helping churches and non-profits find volunteers they need and letting people “shop” for volunteer opportunities.
Since its rollout last year, Meet the Need has been expanding to communities throughout the country.
Meeting the Need in McKinney
In McKinney, local volunteer site 3emckinney.com uses the power of Meet the Need’s technology to “engage, equip and empower” volunteers by providing them with a searchable database of local needs.
Rafe Wright, Executive Pastor of Missional Life at Christ Fellowship Church in McKinney, is on the 3e McKinney Board of Directors and compared using Meet the Need to shopping at Amazon.com.
“With a few clicks of a mouse, you can see every opportunity,” Wright says. “You can search by day, time, location and repetition. If someone is sick at the hospital, Meet the Need can be used to serve that person at specific times and days. It can also be used to let people know that someone needs a bed or a couch or a ride to the doctor.”
Wright says it’s challenging to connect the proper number of volunteers to the numerous needs of the community. “Churches have a limited capacity to join the vast array of needs with those willing to serve,” he says. “Meet the Need helps to bridge that gap.”
Beyond Meet the Need, many other resources are available on the Internet to search for opportunities to volunteer in McKinney and surrounding areas.
Volunteer Opportunities Abound Online
If you love animals and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, McKinney’s Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary has many volunteer opportunities throughout the year. There are a number of ways to get involved, according to Beverly Halperin, Volunteer Coordinator for the Heard.
“The Heard Museum relies on different websites to help recruit volunteers and publicize our volunteer needs,” Halperin says. “Obviously, we feature volunteer opportunities on our own site, but we also advertise for volunteers at volunteermckinney.org and volunteermatch.org. We utilize both for ongoing opportunities, such as animal care and trail guides.”
Michele Dudas, Natural Sciences/Living Collections Curator for the Heard, says using the web to find volunteers has resulted in a more diverse pool of helpers.
“Before the Internet, volunteers in my department were primarily home-school families, or parents and children volunteering together. Now, I see more adults volunteering by themselves, because they love animals and believe strongly in volunteerism,” Dudas says.
The Volunteer McKinney site provides a searchable menu and allows volunteers to discover ways to help the community by keyword, issue, interest and zip code.
Sponsored by the City of McKinney, Volunteer McKinney offers volunteers a chance to “meet new challenges, solve problems, shares a new perspective and most of all touch a life while making a real difference in the community.”
At press time, there were a wide range of volunteer opportunities available, from Spanish-language translators, to nurses, to helping with a food pantry drive, and even caring for goats.
Hope’s Door, a domestic abuse shelter and counseling center in Plano, also relies on volunteermatch.org to find volunteers.
According to Kelly Vaughan, Director of Development for Hope’s Door, “We find that most of the volunteers who come to us online come from third-party websites like volunteernorthtexas.org and volunteermatch.org. Those are both great clearinghouses for volunteer opportunities and a strong point of entry for us. If someone comes to us through our website, it is usually because we met them out in the community or they have a specific interest in domestic violence.”
Jill Rix, Coordinator of Volunteer Services for The Samaritan Inn in McKinney, says the Internet “helps individuals decide where they would get the most out of their volunteering by informing them of the organization’s mission.”
Their marketing manager, Michael Murtha, notes that the Inn’s website provides volunteers with all the information they need to decide to volunteer there, including a schedule of upcoming meetings to learn more about the Inn.
“As far as the volunteers themselves,” Murtha says, “I have witnessed them in action and am very impressed with their dedication and commitment. It is an understatement to say that their work for us is greatly appreciated.”
If you are looking to donate your time and talents, the websites listed here provide an excellent starting point. As Beverly Halperin of the Heard Museum notes, “The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers.” Take it from a volunteer: A hug is a great thing to give or to get.
About the author: Steve Burrell is a local freelance writer and volunteer at the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary, where he may be seen in an animal cage most Saturday mornings.