If you’ve ever wanted to volunteer but didn’t know what, where or how, you’re not alone. You may have even tried at one point only to be frustrated by the time and effort it took just to find an organization that needed help. It can be so complicated that it doesn’t seem worth it.
Plymouth resident Tammy Orning had such an experience. The former Kindergarten teacher found that she had extra time on her hands once her children had entered school. “I wanted to do something meaningful,” she says. “I specifically wanted to work with high-risk preschoolers.”
Orning began searching for organizations that helped children but she immediately encountered obstacles. At first, she didn’t know where to start or who to contact. When she did get in touch with a likely organization, “They’d tell me to call this person, who would tell me to call that person, who would send me to speak to yet another person and then no one called me back,” she says. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be an easier way to do this!’”
She gathered a group of five other mothers currently or formerly involved with Oakwood Elementary School and started a nonprofit organization called Wayzata Community in Action (WCIA). Orning is now the executive director of WCIA.
“We wanted to make it easy for people to give back,” Orning says. “We created a clearing house for those who have the time and resources to volunteer. We do all the research for you and put the information all in one place.” The nonprofit runs a website that organizations and nonprofits can post volunteer activities, and where volunteers who would like to give back to their local community can find the opportunity that best fits their interests and schedule.
WCIA distinguishes itself by focusing on a specific service area. “We are targeting volunteer opportunities in our local area,” Orning says. “Any organization is welcome to register as long as it’s within the Wayzata School District and surrounding areas.” The website is easy to navigate—both for charity organizations to register and for those looking to serve.
Visitors to WCIA can see a list of upcoming opportunities on the homepage, which might include anything from mentoring a child and assisting seniors to adopting a pet. The curious can also peruse the news page and see photographs of past events, including Family Service Night at Oakwood Elementary School. At Family Service Night, children, parents and staff get together to help others in a variety of ways. One year, Oakwood collected funds for the Red Cross, made sandwiches for Minneapolis homeless, collected food for IOCP’s food shelf, donated ponytails to Locks of Love and wrote letters to service members overseas. One of WCIA’s goals is to introduce Family Service Night to all the area’s schools and encourage them to participate on a regular basis.
Interested volunteers may fill out the website’s volunteer page to determine an ideal fit according to skills and passion. A drop-down menu lists categories such as kids, arts, cooking, gardening, crafts, homeless, animals, military and more; each category then lists the organizations that serve that sector. Don’t see what you’re looking for? WCIA is ready to grow and is always eager to add new categories. They’re currently connected to 15 different local organizations; new ones are encouraged to join by clicking on the “List Your Opportunity” link on the WCIA website.
“There are so many locals who need help; you don’t have to go far away,” Orning says. “WCIA has service opportunities for everyone, including kids, families and individuals. It’s so important to be able to give back and we want to make it easy. It’s such a simple website, even grandma and grandpa can do it.”
Find your next volunteer opportunity through Wayzata Community in Action at wayzatacia.org.