Have you ever awakened and felt awakened at the exact same time? You’re sitting in bed, eyes barely opened, when you feel a sudden sense of urgency to make a difference in the world. Maybe there was a series of events leading up to this moment, during the course of which you knew a day was approaching when life would become different than before. Or maybe you awoke and there was an unforeseen, unexplainable feeling that now rested on your heart and would not leave you alone, essentially leaving you no choice but to act upon it. Before your feet hit the floor you grab your phone and begin researching and calling organizations in the area to which you feel drawn. You hope they will be receptive to your sincere desire to help in some way but with each “I’m sorry, not today,” (for many reasons from volunteer caps to necessary paperwork processing) that sense of urgency wanes and you begin to wonder if your awakening would have been better off staying dormant. The short answer is “no” and with today’s launching of VolunteerCompass you now have an opportunity to be that difference you know you were created to be- immediately.
Dr. Sarah Petschonek founded Volunteer Odyssey in 2013 “with the mission to develop a pathway to volunteering that enriches the lives and communities within Memphis.” She is now taking this mission a giant step forward withVolunteerCompass, a platform which will make this process of giving back and enriching both self and society much easier by streamlining how the city’s volunteers and organizations connect with one another. It is a portal that provides real-time opportunities and results. Hence, someone desiring to volunteer with one of the city’s non profit or charitable organizations can do so almost immediately after logging into the system and seeing available same-day openings or, one can select a future date of service. Ten nonprofit partners, Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, Catholic Charities of West Tennessee, Clean Memphis, Memphis Botanic Garden, Porter Leath, Make-A-Wish Mid-South, Urban Bicycle Food Ministry (UBFM), The Dorothy Day House and The Giving Hour, are members of the inaugural group for VolunteerCompass that will undoubtedly prove to both volunteers and the organizations themselves how very important a platform such as this one is and how, moving forward, it will be a necessary staple of the city’s charitable landscape.
There are times when I feel that no matter how many words I use to describe something, they pale in comparison to a visual representation of the subject matter at hand. Such is the case here: in order to fully grasp the awe with which I reflect on this new endeavor, you must visit the VolunteerCompass website. I cannot do it justice with black and white typesetting; to understand just how colorful and fascinating an experience this is, you must take a few moments to navigate it. As Dr. Petschonek demonstrated how straightforward it would now be to implement the cornerstones of volunteerism citywide, I was, quite frankly, blown away. Whether you wish to give or receive, all necessary resources are there. As a volunteer you can find opportunities based on specific keywords entered, such as environment or food pantry. You can track your points of impact (how or what you give) such as time, money, goods and training- all of which can be used in some capacity by countless organizations on any given day. Nonprofits and charitable institutions are able to recruit and manage volunteers on a single, real-time platform without having to spend valuable time cross-referencing multiple software systems and checking paper trails. That valuable time can now be spent accomplishing more of those invaluable goals so vitally important to the organization’s sustenance and impact.
The creation and launch of VolunteerCompass means that starting today, the way we approach volunteerism in Memphis will change and it will change in such a way as to infinitely increase the good that takes place within our communities and, maybe more importantly, within ourselves. VolunteerCompass is giving all of us a chance, with more ease than ever before, to test the truth in Winston Churchill’s declaration: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”