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"Getting someone interested in volunteering is important. It builds a community. It's such a positive thing."

Sarnia & Lambton This Week, Tuesday, August 16, 2011 online & Wednesday August 17, 2011 print edition

New website makes giving easy

By Heather Linda Young

Samantha Scimmi grew up volunteering in Sarnia, so she figured after taking a break from it, she'd be able to get involved again no problem.

She was wrong.

"Even knowing people in not-for-profit, I had no idea where to start," she says.

She knew Toronto had an organization that helped match people to volunteering opportunities.

"I thought, 'Why do we not have this here?'"

Now, Sarnia does have a similar service, thanks in part to Scimmi's efforts.

Sarnia Gives is a not-for-profit organization that helps community members learn about volunteer opportunities that best suit their lifestyle and provides a place for charitable organizations to promote their current volunteer opportunities.

Right now, it operates solely online, with a website at, as well as a Twitter account (@sarniagives) and a Facebook page.

"We have no funding – no money. So we figured, let's go online," says Scimmi, the group's coordinator.

The website launched just a few weeks ago, and there are over 50 opportunities posted and almost 100 organizations listed as members.

Sandra Fox, the event co-coordinator with the Alzheimer Society of Sarnia-Lambton, says the website is easy for organizations to use. The society has four opportunities posted, and she expects to add many more in the future.

"Our volunteer needs change from day-to-day, so something like this is really beneficial," she says.

"We're using it because we're always looking for outlets to recruit volunteers."

Scimmi explains that the site is easy for community members to use, too. Visitors are asked to fill in three categories: what type of work they're interested in, what their skills are and what area of the county they'd like to visit.

"And it will match you with volunteer opportunities on the site," she says.

"At the top, they'll get all the opportunities that match everything they're looking for."

And if visitors register with a username, their searches will be saved for the next time they visit.

Scimmi stresses that the opportunities are widely varied – some organizations are looking for long-term board members, while others just need help for one day.

"There doesn't have to be a big commitment. It all just depends on what someone has to give," she says.

She uses the One Tomato Project as an example, saying, "They planted a garden. If you can dig a hole, you can volunteer for them."

She thinks the key to get people involved in volunteering is to find those solid matches.

"You get all the youth who volunteer with their mandatory hours, but they're being voluntold. Once they finish their hours, they stop volunteering because they didn't take the time to find something they really want to do."

Along with matching potential volunteers with opportunities, Scimmi says the website offers advice and links for volunteering, like resources for getting the police checks that so many organizations require.

The goal, says Scimmi, is to make volunteering easy to encourage people to get involved.

"Getting someone interested in volunteering is important. It builds a community. It's such a positive thing."

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