October 21, 2014

Elyria
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United Way initiative seeks to link volunteers to county projects

ELYRIA — An initiative by the United Way of Greater Lorain County to pair more volunteers with social agencies is under way.

The nonprofit organization has partnered with HandsOn Northeast Ohio, which has coordinated volunteer efforts mainly in Cuyahoga County since 2007, to bring a similar collaborative effort to Lorain County.

“The idea is to increase the impact as much as possible for our member agencies, not just on the days and weeks we are known to be associated with volunteerism, but throughout the year,” said Gwen Stembridge, coordinator of the Lorain County Volunteer Connection. “The partnership will ensure more organizations are helped and more volunteers have those outlets to serve.”

Stembridge’s position was created through two grants of $30,000 each from the Nord Family Foundation and the Community Foundation of Lorain County. She recently joined the United Way to facilitate the volunteer initiative.

“Our Week of Caring, Make a Difference Day and Day of Action are just some of the ways we want to pair those who have a desire to serve with member organizations,” she said.

The first major project will coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 20. Nationwide, the day has taken on a community service aspect in addition to honoring the late civil rights leader.

In Lorain County, a number of celebrations will take place during the week leading up to the holiday, but Stembridge would like volunteers for a project at the Nord Center. From 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 17 and 18. Two shifts of volunteers will paint the interior of a 15-room, two-story group home operated by Nord in Lorain.

Stembridge said supplies will be provided by the Lorain County Volunteer Connection and the Nord Center.

“We’re just looking for the labor to get the job done,” she said.

The upcoming event is just the beginning.

Stembridge said a website will soon be dedicated to the Lorain County Volunteer Connection. It will allow agencies to make their volunteer needs known as well as give volunteers a way to sign up for regular projects, including dog walking at the Friendship Animal Protective League, coaching disabled youth through the Challenger Baseball League and working with Second Harvest Food Bank.

“With our member agencies, we want to make sure volunteerism is a part of their plan,” she said. “We understand the trend and charge from the international United Way is to involve more volunteers.”

All volunteers must complete a one-hour orientation class. Once completed, volunteers can sign up for any projects and can volunteer in Lorain, Cuyahoga and Lake counties.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.