Nonprofit Live Chat Transcript

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Second Step Housing, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington, and American Red Cross of Southwest Washington joined Columbian.com readers today, along with other nonprofit organizations. We discussed what each organization does for the community, any volunteer options and upcoming events that community members can participate in.

Join The Columbian at 10 a.m. March 23 to chat with Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow. Bring your questions and comments for the mayor and we will discuss renovations to downtown and any new changes to the city of Ridgefield.

Nonprofit live chat transcript -- Fri. Mar. 16, 2012:

Setareh Alizadeh : Welcome everyone; we will have a few guests for today’s live chat! Second Step Housing, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington and American Red Cross of Southwest Washington will be joining us in 15 minutes. Send in your questions and comments and be the first to chat with them… To Second Step Housing, Big Brothers Big Sisters and American Red Cross; once you have successfully logged in, send a message briefly saying which organization you are and who we will be chatting with today.

Debby Dover: Debby Dover & Carrie Robbins with Second Step Housing

Setareh Alizadeh : Thank you Debby and Carrie for joining us today!

Andrea Robideau: Andrea Robideau - with Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest

Setareh Alizadeh : Thank you Andrea! We will be starting shortly

Setareh Alizadeh : To all our readers, keep sending in your questions and comments before we begin!

Setareh Alizadeh : As we wait for American Red Cross to join us as well. Debby and Carrie if you could tell us a little about what Second Step Housing does

Media Team: This is the Red Cross!

Debby Dover: Sure, thank you. Second Step Housing is a community based non-profit, we develop, and re-hab permanent and transitional housing for low income families. We provide one on one case management to all residents as well as several classes to the community at large all in an effort to end homelessness.

Setareh Alizadeh : Big Brothers Big Sisters and American Red Cross, if you would like to let the viewers know a little bit of information about what you guys do as well

Andrea Robideau: Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest is the largest mentoring agency on the west coast. We provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Our vision is that all children achieve success in life….Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has more than 370 agencies - each is an independent non-profit. The Columbia Northwest agency currently serves 7 counties in Oregon and Washington: Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Clark, Skamania, Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas.

Media Team: The Red Cross responds to disasters, collects blood for medical purposes, teaches preparedness for emergencies, and has a huge volunteer work force.

Comment From Ashley King : Ashley King with StreamTeam

Setareh Alizadeh : Hey Ashley thank you for joining us as well, If you would like to explain a little about what StreamTeam is

Comment From Ashley King : Thanks! Clark Public Utilities' StreamTeam is a volunteer-driven restoration program devoted to improving the overall health of the watershed and to bringing salmon back to Salmon Creek.

Setareh Alizadeh : For everyone, what are some volunteer options that you guys have for your organization?

Andrea Robideau: Big Brothers Big Sisters serves youth ages 6-18 years. Through our website and through our outreach/recruiting, we identify and enroll adult volunteers to mentor youth in their community.

Setareh Alizadeh : What is the age limit of being a volunteer?

Comment From Ashley King : One of our most exciting opportunities right now is our community EcoFair and Earth Day Celebration. The EcoFair is a family event with free kids' activities, a tree planting, Garlic mustard pull, and free food for volunteers. That's coming up Saturday, April 21st. But we offer year-round restoration activities including tree plantings, tree potting, invasive plant removals, and wildlife monitoring.

Andrea Robideau: We ask our volunteers to give at least 1 hour of their time, 3-4 times per month, to their Little Brother or Little Sister. Volunteers are typically 18 years and older.

Media Team: We always need volunteers who are willing to help people who have lost their homes due to flooding, fire, storms, etc. We also need outreach volunteers to speak to the communities we serve about emergency preparedness. In addition, we need volunteers to work at blood drives throughout the year. Our youth council works with high school students to encourage volunteering at that level and that group also participates in many volunteer opportunities within the Red Cross.

Setareh Alizadeh : Ashley, is there more information about this on your website?

Comment From Ashley King : We have opportunities for volunteers of all ages… Yes, anyone interested in volunteering can check out our website at www.StreamTeam.net.

Andrea Robideau: We have some additional programs which have alternate age requirements. For example: our Teen-Bigs program requires that volunteers in specific school-based programs be at least 15 years of age. While volunteers in our Second Chance program must be at least 21 years of age.

Debby Dover: We have a couple different options. We have Women Helping Women - a Mentoring program. We also have Yards & Gardens- where we do yard work and garden projects for our housing clients and help with home maintenance. Empowerment Workshops-helping our residents learn the basic life skills needed to succeed.

Fitness Program-we have volunteers that are instructors and help our clients work towards fitness

We also have two major fundraising events each year- Step into Fashion & Run Like a Girl 5k. Volunteers are needed throughout the whole planning process & preparation for these events.

Setareh Alizadeh : Is there an age limit for Red Cross volunteers? Can people sign up online at your website?

Debby Dover: We also don't have an age limit for our volunteers. If anyone would like to volunteer, please email me at: crobbins@secondstephousing.org

Setareh Alizadeh : That is all great information. I know some were mentioned before, but are there any upcoming events where the community can participate and get involved?

Media Team: It really depends on the volunteer opportunity. For example, to teach CPR you must be 17; you must be at least 12 to volunteer to help at a blood drive (and you must be accompanied by a parent). Those are really the only two volunteer opportunities that have age limits. If someone wants to volunteer with the Red Cross, we'll find an opportunity for them to help.

Andrea Robideau: Folks are welcome to sign up online with Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest at: www.bbbsnorthwest.org Our website is also a great place to find out Upcoming Events on our calendar.

Andrea Robideau: Currently, we are recruiting and promoting our Bowl For Kids Sake events… People can also learn about our agency's efforts and activities via our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/bbbsnorthwest

Setareh Alizadeh : What is the Bowl For Kids Sake?

Setareh Alizadeh : Debby and Carrie, if families need to see you for housing and help, where are you located? I understand you guys are close in the Vancouver area.

Andrea Robideau: Bowl For Kids Sake is an opportunity for our volunteers and supporters to participate in outreach and fundraising by sponsoring a Bowling Team. We ask each team to set a fundraising goal and we invite them to participate in a Bowling Party. It's a lot of fun - it gets folks talking and sharing about the program with their circles of friends and family - and it supports the work that our agency does for the community.

Debby Dover: You can also check our website out for volunteer opportunities: www.secondstephousing.org.

Our address is: 2500 Main Street

Vancouver, WA 98660

We are in the same building as the Vancouver Housing Authority.

Setareh Alizadeh : Where does the Bowling Party take place?

Andrea Robideau: We have several Bowling Parties set up for the upcoming season. Team Captains can choose which Bowling Party would best accommodate their team. For groups/companies that establish 10 or more teams, we are able to set up a special party just for that group/company

Setareh Alizadeh : American Red Cross just had the Heroes Breakfast, what was this event about? and do you have any more coming up?

Media Team: The annual "Real Heroes" breakfast recognizes those people whose actions saved other's lives during the prior year. The SWW Red Cross has honored heroes for 15 consecutive years. It is our only major fund raiser. Donations are still accepted.

Comment From Ashley King : We are also recruiting Team Leaders to coordinate a group of planting volunteers for our Earth Day Celebration, April 21st. Team Leader training will take place Saturday, April 14th. Leaders will learn how to demonstrate and oversee planting activities while educating volunteers and fostering a safe and enjoyable environment.

Andrea Robideau: Our position is: "Start Something" - one of the goals for each Bowl For Kids Sake team is to start conversations with people they know . . . start talking about the mentors that they had in their own lives . . . start talking about the mentoring they are currently doing . . . and start talking about more ways that they can positively impact the lives of children.

Andrea Robideau: To find out how you can Start Something with our Bowl For Kids Sake events . . . follow this link: http://pdxbfks.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1010813

Setareh Alizadeh : Andrea mentioned specific hours that volunteers must commit before they sign up. A lot of kids are still in school at this time of year, what are the hourly commitments that volunteers must give for each of your organizations?

Debby Dover: We don't have a set amount of hours. We welcome any hours that the community wants to give. We do a lot of our gardening hours on Saturday's.

Setareh Alizadeh : I saw the sun come out today, I hope it stays out for some great gardening time tomorrow =)

Debby Dover: Me too! We do it rain or shine. Kind of have to hear in the Great Northwest!

Comment From Ashley King : Each volunteer event is approximately 4 hours. Volunteers can sign up for one event or as many as they would like. Most events are held on Saturdays from 9am - 1pm, with registration starting at 8:45am…But we also have some opportunities with flexible timing, such as bird monitoring.

Media Team: It all depends on the department, the activity, and the time availability of the volunteer. Blood services volunteers "should" be able to volunteer 6 times a year. Our high school students volunteer each month within their Red Cross clubs. Disaster volunteers work around an "on call" schedule, one week a month. Office volunteers work a set schedule per week, based on their availability.

Andrea Robideau: Big Brothers Big Sisters has two primary ways to volunteer: School-Based, or Community-Based.

Community-Based volunteers (once matched) participate and spend time out in the community. This can be going to local parks, visiting local libraries, going to the movies, etc. Essentially, the match spends time out and about in the community.

With School-Based volunteers (once matched) participate in activities and spend time at the child's school with them - either having lunch together and playing at recess or participating in after-school activity/time with the child.

As mentioned, we ask our volunteers to give at least 1 hour, 3-4 times per month . . . but we also recognize that some activities (such as watching a movie or attending a sporting event) can often times be more than an hour . . . it's truly up to the interests and hobbies of the match - what kinds of activities they enjoy doing together.

Comment From Jeff Tatum : You are all highly involved in volunteer work around here. What do you think are some of the biggest unmet needs in Clark County? In other words, are their problems that are consistently popping up that you see no one addressing well?

Andrea Robideau: I'm not sure if this is the answer you are looking for - however, I can truly say: there are not enough male volunteers . . . our agency is always searching for more men to become mentors. Unfortunately, I don't have a solution or a response for this dilemma.

Debby Dover: For us, there are not a lot of housing options. We believe in housing choice, and there is not a whole lot of that around here. The lack of affordability is what we come across most often. Rent assistance is the number one thing that we see at Second Step Housing. If we could have more help with our rent classes that we provide to our clients and the community in general, we feel it would greatly help the community. We are always looking for volunteers, but we have to say that we have a great group of volunteers working for us. We could also use more men volunteers.

Comment From Jeff Tatum : Thank you, Andrea, for your input. Any other "gaps" or weaknesses in our programs that people see?

Media Team: We certainly hope we can inspire a growing community awareness for the need of participation by many. Obviously there are hundreds of unmet needs that only interested citizens can address. If a person has an interest, just call the Red Cross for need.

Andrea Robideau: For our agency, more than 70% of the children waiting to be matched are boys . . . at this point, only 39% of our current volunteers are men. This is up (from less than 35%) largely due to rolling out our "Sports Buddies" program last year. At this point, more than 65% of the volunteers enrolled in our Sports Buddies program are men. Sports Buddies is a program in which both School-Based and Community-Based matches are dedicated to being physically active and participate in positive choices and healthy lifestyle activities. We are looking forward to seeing more men become involved with our most recent program: "Operation Bigs" in which we are serving children of Military Families.

Comment From Ashley King : I think one unmet need is volunteers in leadership positions. StreamTeam would love to hold larger volunteer events, but the limiting factor for us is leaders. By training more volunteers in leadership positions, we would be able to greatly increase the capacity of our events and get even more done in our community.

Setareh Alizadeh : With the last few minutes, is there is anything you guys would like to add about your organizations?

Media Team: One of the unmet needs is the need for blood! About 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood and only 5%-8% actually donate. If you have about an hour please stop in to you local blood bank. The need is constant, the gratification is instant. Thank you! To schedule an appointment go to Redcrossblood.org/pnw

Comment From Ashley King :If anyone has any questions about StreamTeam or would like to sign up to volunteer, feel free to contact me at StreamTeam@clarkpud.com or (360) 992-8585.

Andrea Robideau: In addition to mentoring, folks can support our program in many ways. Visit our website to find out what you can do.

Comment From Clark Service-Learning : Hi, I haven't been able to comment until now, but Clark College is a great resource for volunteers. Please send us flyers with information about how students can volunteer at your organization or for events: service_learning@clark.edu and I'll do my best to recruit students for you!

Media Team: We are able to do what we can do because the community is here to support us. Please join the Red Cross and help us turn heartbreak into hope!

Andrea Robideau: Thank you mentors - whoever they were, the ones that impacted your life . . . Thank them.

Setareh Alizadeh : Thank you Big Brothers Big Sisters, Streamteam, Second Step Housing, and American Red Cross for joining us today! as well as all of your efforts to help our community.

Andrea Robideau: Thank you, for this opportunity to share about our program.

Media Team: Thank you for inviting us!

Debby Dover: Changing Lives, Building Homes, Building Community! For over 15 years Second Step Housing has been working to help end homelessness in our community. We believe in our mission, to foster self-sufficiency for at-risk women and families through building and rehabitating affordable housing paired with community services.

Comment From Jeff Tatum : Thank you for your input. I learned a great deal

Comment From Ashley King : Thank you!

Debby Dover: Thank you again for this opportunity!

Setareh Alizadeh : Thank you to our readers and hope to see you all next Friday at 10AM when the Mayor of Ridgefield, Ron Onslow, joins us.