Volunteers unload food from postal vehicles at the Lynnwood Post Office during the Letter Carriers Food Drive last May. United Way of Snohomish County will launch a new web page Monday that will make it easier for volunteers to find nonprofits needing help.

United Way’s new website helps volunteers ‘get connected’

You have some time on your hands. Do you log in to Facebook to see what’s up? Do you “pin” pictures of cupcakes on Pinterest? United Way of Snohomish County will launch a website Monday to make it easier to use your time helping others.

Like favorite social media sites, it will be a place to personalize your profile. You’ll be able to match your interests to nonprofits needing help.

“Our old volunteer system was completely clunky,” said Makenzie Landis, the local United Way’s events and communications manager. “It wasn’t mobile-friendly, and people had a hard time signing up.”

With the new “Get Connected” Web page, which will go live Monday, United Way hopes to make it easier for current helpers and attract people who haven’t volunteered before. Hundreds of teens help every year though the agency’s Youth United program, and many retirees are volunteers.

“We’re trying to target working people,” said Jessica Gaitan, volunteer engagement manager with United Way of Snohomish County. “And millennials, that college age, and people in their 20s and 30s. They’re working, they’re busy. Everyone is online now, and they want their own profile.”

Gaitan said other United Way organizations are using Get Connected, a platform powered by Galaxy Digital. “The old site was text-heavy. This has more graphics,” she said.

“I’m most interested in food bank stuff, family safety and crisis. You make your own profile, and it shows you volunteer needs,” Landis said. “What’s also awesome, you can look things up by event, by day, by agency or by need.”

Volunteers can pick from a list of categories corresponding to their interests. They include arts and culture, education, housing, veterans, general community, health, basic needs, disaster response, mental wellness, employment, family, equality, crisis, animals and the environment.

“And nonprofits are able to post their needs,” Landis said. She said the site’s launch will happen during National Volunteer Week, April 10-16, a designation of the Points of Light organization that promotes volunteerism.

Looking at a preview of the site Friday, Landis said her “dashboard” showed a volunteer opportunity aligned with her interests — helping with homework at the Everett Boys &Girls Club. “Every day you can log into it,” she said. “You flag things you’re most interested in, but can look at all the requests.”

Opportunities to be listed on Get Connected this week include volunteering for the Mill Creek Mobile Food Bank, helping at the Everett Food Bank, and working on the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive on May 14.

The website also tracks volunteer hours, which is helpful for young people with community service requirements.

Everett’s Lisa Matson often volunteers with her 16-year-old daughter, Victoria, a junior at Mariner High School. They have helped at the Marysville Food Bank and with food sorting for Northwest Harvest.

“It’s part of being in the community,” Matson said. “If you’re capable and able, you should help.”

Matson said her daughter has earned enough hours to be eligible for United Way’s Varsity Letter in Community Service program. Offered in most Snohomish County high schools, the program is new at Mariner this year. The varsity letter requires teens to complete at least 145 hours of community service, not including hours used for class credit or graduation requirements, in a year.

Alan Rice, a 56-year-old manager at The Boeing Co., said volunteering is “one of my biggest passions.” The Lake Stevens man has been on United Way citizen advisory boards, has volunteered at Everett’s Cocoon House shelter for teens, and is involved with the Employee Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound.

As he looks forward to retirement, Rice expects that volunteering will become an even more important part of his life.

“At United Way, they talk about reaching another demographic,” Rice said. “What we really need to do is change the culture. Make it rewarding, make it fun and interesting. People can go back to school or work and say, ‘This really cool thing happened.’

“Volunteering is what helps create the balance between your self-interest and the needs of your community,” Rice said. “It adds richness to life.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Volunteers can ‘Get Connected’

United Way of Snohomish County will launch a new web page Monday, “Get Connected,” that will streamline how volunteers find local nonprofits needing their help. Find the site at: http://getconnected.uwsc.org

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