Each year, the Easton Community Foundation selects 6 local charities to support as part of its Change for Charity initiative. This program uses money collected through Easton parking meters and parking tickets to support these selected Change for Charity recipients. Since the program was started, it has raised nearly $7 million for local charities in the Columbus community.
The recipient of 2018’s September and October donations is HandsOn Central Ohio, an organizationfocused on connecting residents and companies to volunteer opportunities that strengthen Central Ohio. Last year alone, HandsOn Central Ohio gathered 15,000 volunteers that contributed 50,000 hours of community service valued at $1.3 million.
To learn more about the great work being done by HandsOn Central Ohio, we sat down with the organization’s Director of Corporate and Community Volunteerism, Stephanie Sparrow Hughes. Here’s what she had to say:
What do you love about being a part of HandsOn Central Ohio, and what do you want people to know about the organization?
I love that our organization connects everyday residents and companies with specific engagement opportunities that directly impact the community. Our mission is to align community resources and generate insights that strengthen Central Ohio. We do this by ensuring people have the right resources, at the right time and in the right place.
We use community data to identify the needs of Central Ohio neighborhoods and use this information to form strategic partnerships, create innovative solutions and match volunteers with causes based on their best interests.
Our organization has two drivers of social impact: mobilizing volunteers to do service and providing 2-1-1 Information & Referral services to Franklin County.
With volunteering, we help people in the community connect with causes they’re passionate about and find opportunities to give back. It’s a strategy for employers to use with associate engagement, or for civic groups looking for ways to demonstrate pride in their neighborhoods.
Our 2-1-1 Information & Resource Referral contact center provides residents with free access to thousands of service interventions and resources at clinics, organizations and government agencies across Franklin County, 24-hours a day, every day. It’s a simple way for people to navigate the growing complexity of Central Ohio. Annually, 2-1-1 responds to over 350,000 requests for help with food security, affordable housing, transportation, and other basic needs.
How does HandsOn Central Ohio determine the volunteer efforts it supports? Can you provide a couple examples of causes or programs the organization supports?
Generally, we support any effort to strengthen Central Ohio. Part of what makes Columbus special is the enthusiasm people have for getting engaged and making their community an even better place to live. We manage volunteercentralohio.org—a virtual home for anyone interested in recruiting volunteers, organizing a volunteer event or being a volunteer in our community.
While we support the full spectrum of volunteerism, our community data clearly points to food security, affordable housing and transportation as being areas with the greatest opportunity to make an impact. Many of our more targeted volunteer efforts are focused on these issues. They support local food pantries, serve meals and deliver food to senior citizens; and help engage the region’s growing community of entrepreneurs in projects that develop solutions to improve our social service delivery system.
What sort of activities or events does your charity organize?
Another way we strengthen Central Ohio is through our HandsOn Neighborhood Ambassador Program—a network of volunteers that develop and implement unique solutions to social challenges in their communities.
Our Neighborhood Ambassadors help us raise awareness of the services offered through HandsOn Central Ohio, spread hope and share resources with those in need and encourage others to get involved by supporting local volunteer opportunities.
We also partner with companies that want to give back by helping organizations identify volunteer opportunities and assist with the management of custom projects for National Days of Service. It is important for youth and residents of all ages to actively engage in being the change in our community. For MLK Day volunteers have painted historic murals, completed community beautification projects for Make A Difference Day, created little libraries to encourage literacy for National Volunteer Week, and honored lives lost at our annual 9/11 Flag Tribute at the Ohio Statehouse.
Some of the companies we’ve worked with to create custom volunteer opportunities include Honda, Huntington and Ohio State University. We also partner with LBrands’ community relations team to connect their employees to more than 250 volunteer opportunities annually.
What have been some of HandsOn Central Ohio’s biggest accomplishments in the past five years?
We’re very proud of the work our organization is doing to build healthy communities and provide opportunities for civic engagement. Some of our biggest accomplishments include creating new partnerships with LBrands, AEP, Alliance Data Systems, The Ohio State University and the Easton Community Foundation. Our sense of accomplishment is fueled by the opportunity to contribute to the great works being done across Central Ohio, and we’re honored to have our efforts recognized by others in the community. We have been recognized as one of 5 Nonprofits to Watch by the Columbus Foundation, received the Ohio Nonprofit Excellence Award for Innovation from the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations, and received the Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service.
What does it mean to be a part of the Change for Charity program? We know there were many other deserving organizations considered for this opportunity and we’re honored to be among the few selected. We’re appreciative of the opportunity to work with Easton, raise awareness of our work and mission, and help more people get involved to in strengthening the community.
How does your organization plan to use the funds it raises from the Change for Charity program? The community is growing and that is driving more demand for the programs and services we offer. These funds will help us keep up with the growing demand.
Other than participate in Change for Charity, how can people support HandsOn Central Ohio?
If you’re looking for local volunteer opportunities, visit our website or give us a call! Employers can partner with us to engage their associates with a corporate volunteer program. Groups can form teams to join with us for our citywide service days, such as 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, MLK Day, National Volunteer Week, and Make A Difference Day. Individuals can become a Neighborhood Ambassador. Medical service providers can partner with our 2-1-1 service to better connect them to people who need primary and preventative care.
Events like these bring the community together and enable us to educate attendees about volunteerism. You can also find us serving beer during Food Truck Friday at Easton! Beverage proceeds during Food Truck Friday will support our organization. We value all contributions to help better our organization and appreciate this opportunity from Easton Community Foundation.