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'Get Connected' through the United Way

With the help of a new collaborative effort spearheaded by United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties, volunteers can learn of nonprofit volunteer needs with the click of a button.

With the help of a new collaborative effort spearheaded by United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties, volunteers can learn of nonprofit volunteer needs with the click of a button.

The Get Connected platform rolled out in late 2015 through the local arm of United Way with funding from several community partners. The program, already implemented by many United Way organizations nationwide, works in two ways: nonprofits in search of volunteers simply create a link within the website, notating the type of work they have available for volunteers. Interested individuals can also access the website and create their individual profiles, checking off areas of interest and skill and time available. The software does the rest-matching up people with projects and alerting volunteers to the find.

Jennifer Smith, executive director with United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties, said she is excited to introduce local nonprofits, and the community at-large, to this opportunity.

"Get Connected is really a one-of-its-kind effort, locally," Smith noted. "We really saw an opportunity to help facilitate the collaboration of needs with those willing and able to fill those needs. This program does just that."

Smith said during the soft-launch, 14 local nonprofits have already completed profiles on the website with several individuals following suit, already connected with opportunities to give back within their community while doing what they enjoy.

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"It truly allows people to customize their volunteerism with activities where they already have interest or skill," Smith added. "It also allows nonprofits to reach a whole new group of individuals who may not have thought to reach out to a particular organization or effort. It's truly a win-win for our community."

Get Connected is available through the United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties webpage through the "volunteer" link. The program was purchased and made financially possible through several contributors, including the Crow Wing Power Operation Roundup, the Initiative Foundation, Crow Wing Energized, and Essentia Health and its St Joseph's Foundation. The Crow Wing County Volunteer Coordinator program and Retired Senior Volunteer Program are also collaborating partners.

"This program is not intended to replace any existing programs or volunteer outreach efforts," Smith said, "but rather to enhance and assist our local nonprofits to continue to carry out the important work they do. It's just another tool in our community outreach toolbox for all to share and use."

Visit volunteer.unitedwaynow.org to register as a volunteer and to explore local opportunities.

United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties will host two information sessions for nonprofit organizations to Get Connected. Sessions will be held Feb. 2 and Feb. 9 at the Brainerd Chamber. Participants will learn how to create their online profile and maintaining current volunteer opportunities.

Space is limited and pre-registration is required. For more information, contact United Way at 218-829-2619.

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