Nonprofit Spotlight: Catholic Charities Community Services

Linda Tailleart of Catholic Charities

Linda holding her CVA certification!

In the 1970s, Linda Tailleart taught students in a Michigan classroom. It’s here that she first began working with volunteers.

“Volunteer engagement became my passion,” explains Linda. Now, she’s the Director of Volunteer Services at Catholic Charities Communities Services in Phoenix, AZ.

“Volunteers make such a difference to our organization, community, and the people we serve, by sharing their time, talent and love which infuses Catholic Charities with energy and passion,” says Linda.

Managing the volunteer program at Catholic Charities is no small endeavor. The organization currently has at least 100 different volunteer positions, in over 20 different programs. Domestic violence, immigration, foster care, human trafficking – these are just a small sampling of the causes areas Catholic Charities works on.

Volunteer videographer at Catholic Charities

Keshia, a volunteer videographer capturing client stories for Catholic Charities.

With all of these programs and causes areas, there’s a lot of choices for potential volunteers. Volunteers fill roles from “Counseling Interns” to “Filing Ninja” to everything in between.

“My joy comes from helping a volunteer find just the right placement,” says Linda. “We want every volunteer to feel that s/he makes a difference!”

One cause area that is important to Catholic Charities is homelessness. They run 5 programs aimed to alleviate homelessness in Arizona. They do everything from offering a safe place to shower, to finding housing, to offering treatment to those who are homeless and also struggling with addiction and mental illness.

Linda explains, “When you’re homeless and isolated, a day can seem endless without another person to talk to. The LOFT Day Drop-in Center in Cottonwood provides air conditioning in the summer, heat during the cooler months and a great place to socialize, job hunt, and stay in touch with family by phone or email.”

Pat, volunteer with Catholic Charities

Pat, volunteer at Catholic Charities’ The LOFT.

One volunteer that stands out to Linda is Pat. Why? Before becoming a volunteer, Pat was homeless himself.

As a former air conditioning/heat technician from Michigan, Pat watched his 26-year-career come to an end after a back injury and then faced divorce after 26 years of marriage. Through a series of events, he ended up experiencing homelessness in his late 40s.

For Pat, loneliness was the worst part of experiencing homelessness. He worried about getting water and food, showering, figuring a way to move on with his life—but the lack of human contact felt maddening.”

“If you’re alone enough, especially if you’ve had some traumatic experiences, your mind can go to some dark places,” says Pat.

Living out of his car for eight months, Pat found his way to Catholic Charities’ The Loft, a day center reaching the homeless population in Cottonwood, Ariz. When he first arrived, it was difficult to assimilate back into society.

“I was closed off,” says Pat. “But then I got a support system and started meeting people, and it helped me to open up.”

He immediately used the shower, kitchen and laundry services. Staff helped him to come up with a plan, and in six months, he moved into an apartment. He also got support to address health issues. Then, he took another big step and enrolled in Yavapai College to start a new career in education.

Now, he also volunteers at The Loft to help others. “I like working here, because at one time, I was in the same situation as the people that visit here,” says Pat. “I know how much this drop-in day center helps people… I wouldn’t be surprised if this place has saved lives.”

Pat comes in early to start the coffee, turn on the computers, launder the towels and restock the bathrooms. Then, when people start coming in, he provides a friendly greeting and guides them to needed resources ranging from food to staff support.

“Usually, when people come here, it takes them about a month to warm up to people,” says Pat. “They don’t have much to say. But once they get connected, it becomes a community.”

Your story can help inspire others to get involved! VolunteerMatch collects stories about volunteering to help illustrate the challenges and successes of nonprofits. How have volunteers helped you? What role has VolunteerMatch played? Share your story!

Volunteer Spotlight: Becky of JourneyCare

Becky Lininger, JourneyCare volunteer

Becky Lininger, JourneyCare volunteer

Due to shifting life events, Becky recently found herself with time on her hands. What did she do? Turned to Google, of course! This led her to VolunteerMatch, which in turn led her to JourneyCare, a hospice and palliative care facility.

Becky can’t pinpoint exactly why she chose JourneyCare out of all the other options on VolunteerMatch.  “I’ve lost three of my immediate family members now,” says Becky. “My sister passed away from cancer about three years ago. Maybe that played in, I don’t know. But when I discovered just what JourneyCare was all about, I was immediately drawn to them.”

In her short amount of time with JourneyCare, Becky has already worked on several administrative projects, and has visited home-bound patients.

“Other than raising my children, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything quite so meaningful!” says Becky.

Read the rest of Becky’s story, including her experience with one particularly memorable JourneyCare client.

June Webinar Preview: New Ways to Engage Volunteers


Learn something new. Register for a webinar.

This month we’re introducing even more webinars to help you engage volunteers. We’ve added two brand new sessions to our Fighting Hunger series.These webinars might be geared towards fighting hunger, but the information provided is applicable to all types of organizations. No matter where you’re at with your engagement strategies, these webinars can help.


Fighting Hunger Together: Engage Volunteers in New Ways!

When you think about volunteering to fight hunger, do you think of jobs like food sorting or serving food in a soup kitchen?  What if we told you that volunteers can do even more to help fight hunger? Using examples from successful food banks, pantries and meal service programs, we’ll discuss creating new types of opportunities in order to create more volunteer engagement. Even if you don’t work for a hunger organization, you’ll learn how to engage volunteers by thinking outside the box. Sample position descriptions will be provided.

Fighting Hunger Together: Recruit & Engage Volunteers in SNAP Outreach

One of the most effective ways to fight hunger is to ensure that your clients are enrolled in federal assistance programs. Mobilizing volunteers to assist with your SNAP outreach (formerly the food stamp program) is not only a great way to help meet your mission, but it’s also rewarding for your volunteers. In this webinar we’ll cover the steps for recruiting, training and managing volunteers in SNAP outreach. Sample position descriptions and recruitment plans will be provided. If you aren’t yet engaging volunteers in this way, or if you’re looking for some new ideas – this session is for you.

If you’re looking for more webinars about volunteer engagement, be sure and register for these titles too:

Where Do I Go From Here? Engage Volunteers in New Ways

Build Staff Buy-In for Volunteer Engagement

Engaging Pro Bono and Skilled Volunteers

Social Media and Volunteer Engagement

Developing a Strategic Plan for Volunteer Engagement

To check out all of the titles we have to offer, please visit Learning Center.

A Healthcare Documentary About People, Not Policy

“Instead of a film about policy, about which system is better, would cover more, or cost less, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL is a film about people, about a proud Appalachian community banding together to try and provide some relief for friends and neighbors who are simply out of options.”Good Pitch

A compelling new documentary called REMOTE AREA MEDICAL, takes a close look at the power of volunteer engagement in our own backyard. The film explores an organization and their team of passionate volunteers as they take a stand against health care disparity in America’s rural areas — through people, not policy.

The feature-length documentary follows nonprofit Remote Area Medical (RAM) for three days in August 2012 as their group of dedicated medical volunteers provides free healthcare for nearly 2000 patients on the infield of Tennessee’s NASCAR Speedway.

As seen in the documentary, RAM’s volunteer medical teams come together from all over the country to provide free medical, dental and eye care to people in rural areas of the United States. The organization is completely reliant on public support and volunteer commitment, and since 1985, has been engaging thousands of medical professionals to serve the greater good.

Instead of taking an explicit stand on ongoing medical debates, the film puts a human face on the lack of access to health care in America. The result is a dramatic and emotional story about underserved people with little to no means of accessible health care.

Inspired by Volunteers

Directors Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman first became fascinated with the organization and its cause while volunteering at a RAM clinic in Pikesville, KY in 2011. Reichert’s aunt, a retired nurse, introduced them to the organization and set them up at the registration table. The filmmakers were blown away by the number of people who came to the clinic, and the kindness of the volunteers brought them to tears.

The following year, the two returned to RAM — this time to document the amazing stories of both clinic volunteers and attendees. The REMOTE AREA MEDICAL documentary is the result of their own emotional experience at the clinics, and of countless hours piecing together the larger story of community, volunteerism and medical need.

The interactions between the volunteers and the people visiting the free clinic are mixed and emotionally charged. These are sometimes happy and sometimes sad encounters, but one thing is clear: They are life-changing experiences for everyone involved, including those watching on the big screen.

Changing Lives Through Volunteer Engagement

RAM “Pop-up” clinic in Briston, TN (Photo courtesy of Capital Film Fund)

This is a beautiful and inspirational film shows how motivated volunteers who are inspired by a nonprofit’s mission can touch thousands of lives in a meaningful way.

The documentary also demonstrates that organizations like yours and the volunteers you engage have the ability to address issues at the community level — not just in health care, but education, unemployment, welfare and other national topics. Take REMOTE AREA MEDICAL as inspiration to continue engaging your volunteers for a better future.

The REMOTE AREA MEDICAL documentary is currently touring at film festivals around the country. For more information about the film, and to see when it’s coming to your area, check out their Facebook page.

Nonprofit Tip of the Month: Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up!

Don’t drop the ball. Follow up.

You use VolunteerMatch to connect with the volunteers you need, but what happens next? Following up is an important part of the recruitment process. It’s the first opportunity for your organization to engage new volunteers. For this month’s tip I’ll teach you how to use the tools in your VolunteerMatch account to follow up with everyone who expresses interest in your opportunities.

Following up does not have to be a long, involved process. Most of the time a simple ‘Thank You’ note will work. You can also use follow up messaging to inform volunteers of next steps in your on-boarding process. If your organization has a Community Leader subscription you can even create customized questions that are sent out automatically.

When you post an opportunity on our site it will be visible to thousands of individuals within our network. Each time an interested volunteer clicks the ‘I Want to Help!’ button we will automatically save their contact information into your VolunteerMatch account. You can use this information in your follow up process by accessing your Referral Report.

To learn how to access the Referral Report watch this short Tools Training Video.

Use the information stored in your Referral Report to send out follow up messaging to prospective volunteers. Let them know you received their inquiry and inform them about next steps. Schedule a phone interview, send them additional paperwork or invite them to register on your website. Taking the time to follow up promotes engagement and retention, so make sure your organization doesn’t drop the ball.

Do you have any tips for following up with volunteers? Share them in the comments below!