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National Service Responds to Hurricane Harvey

2017 September 1

If you are wanting to know how to help after Hurricane Harvey – check out NationalService.gov/Harvey as a great reference source!

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that engages Americans in community driven service, has a website,  NationalService.gov/Harvey, devoted to providing information for those who want to help the survivors of Hurricane Harvey.

You can sign-up to receive communications about future volunteer opportunities.

There are links to:
-Volunteer Louisiana
-Texas Service Commission
-Disaster Preparedness Resources
-FEMA Resources

There are helpful tips and links about:
-Volunteering and
-Donations to vetted disaster relief organizations

Click here to learn more about the Corporation for National and Community Service.
SeniorCorps is a core program of CNCS and a funder of our local SeniorCorps-RSVP program at HandsOn Suburban Chicago.

 

HandsOn Suburban Chicago Receives Community Service Award from Community Consolidated School District 21

2017 August 25
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

On August 2, at Community Consolidated School District 21’s (CCSD21) Family Learning Program’s Benefit Golf Outing, HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC) was presented with a plaque “in recognition of many years of service to students and the Community Consolidated School District 21 Community.”

Jordan Friedman, HOSC Executive Director; Tom Gaynor, Steven Zielke, and Jennifer Brennan, HOSC Board Members; Jess Park, School and Youth Project Director, and Aaron Wasserman-Olin, Service Learning Coordinator (pictured) accepted the recognition award.

HOSC has had a long history of serving students in CCSD21. Beginning in September 2010, CCSD21 and volunteer leaders from HOSC began the SAVE for Education consulting evaluation. Working with Gregg Crocker, the Director of Community Service Education, school administrators, principals, assistant principals, and student leaders, HOSC created an after school tutoring/mentoring program for middle school students. This program became known as “CHiL” which incorporates the names of the three middle schools: Cooper, Holmes and London, where the program is in place.

CHiL was designed to focus on keeping students in school and on track to finish high school. The after school program provides a healthy snack, time for the student to work with a volunteer tutor/mentor, and social/emotional support activities. CHiL volunteer tutors include high school students, community volunteers, and members of Senior Corps-RSVP, a Corporation for National and Community Service program sponsored by HOSC.

During the past school year 2016/2017, a total 156 individuals tutored 132 students providing students with 1146 hours of their time.

In addition to after school tutoring, HOSC’s School and Youth program developed Service Learning activities for CHIL students.  These included:

  • assembling anti-bullying bulletin board displays
  • making and donation of 240 scarves to Button & Zipper, a nonprofit that supplies winter clothing to those in need in Chicagoland
  • creating 225 holiday cards for residents of an assisted living facility in Wheeling and Meals on Wheels recipients
  • producing 320 inserts for the Wheeling Park District’s Earth Day event on how and where to recycle electronics, batteries, household hazardous chemicals
  • educating students about homelessness and having students assemble 100 summer essential kits during an afternoon of enrichment activity

August 17th is National Nonprofit Day!

2017 August 17
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

HandsOn Suburban Chicago was excited to hear that August 17 is being celebrated as National Nonprofit Day for the first time. It is acknowledged by the National Day Calendar.

National Nonprofit Day recognizes more than nonprofits’ primary altruistic goals (awareness, research, and aid); it also acknowledges the added positive impacts they have on communities and the world. For example, following the recent U.S. recession, in 2012 the nonprofit sector provided 5.4% of the nation’s entire GDP (gross domestic product), or $887.3 billion; continuously employing nurses, web developers, lawyers, computer engineers and more (sources: John Hopkins and Tactical Philanthropy Advisors reports).

What is National Nonprofit Day and why is it being recognized on August 17th.

The Tariff Act of 1894 signed into law on August 17, 123 years ago, imposed the first federal income tax on corporations, which included exemptions for nonprofit corporations and charitable institutions. With a few modifications, nonprofit exemptions remain a solid part of the law and have served significant benefits, both for communities and the economy.

How to Observe

The National Day Calendar suggests observing this day by taking some time to learn more about nonprofits. Understanding that the funding for these organizations often satisfies more than the mission statement will help us see the benefits of supporting nonprofit organizations.

 

HandsOn Suburban Chicago – 48 years of service to area nonprofits and schools.

Founded in 1969 as a nonprofit, HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC) has a mission of “Connecting people with purpose”.  HOSC connects volunteers to area nonprofits and schools to help build their capacity to make positive change in our community. It also provides training for nonprofit staff in volunteer and nonprofit management to help strengthen and sustain their programs. HOSC services volunteers and clients in northern Cook and northern DuPage counties through an array of programs. Its main service area includes 44 towns and villages and 10 townships in the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago, reaching a population of over 1.4 million. View our website www.handsonsuburbanchicago.org to see the extensive services we provide to area nonprofits and how HandsOn interacts with the community.

 

Please consider supporting a local nonprofit by volunteering through HandsOn Suburban Chicago.

To make a donation to keep HOSC’s vital community programs going click here.

 

History of National Nonprofit Day

Sherita J. Herring, a renowned speaker, best-selling author and business strategist, founded National Nonprofit Day to educate, enlighten and empower others to make a difference, while acknowledging those that are in the trenches, impacting lives every day – the Change-Makers of the World! Visit www.kifoundation.org to find out more. #NationalNonprofitDay and #NND

 

How to Achieve a Positive Volunteer Experience – Part 2

2017 August 8
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

Studies show that volunteering can be beneficial to volunteers as well as to those served but ensuring a positive experience is as much the responsibility of the volunteer as it is the organization. The volunteer need to be diligent in researching the organization and its environment to find the right fit.

In our first installment, we highlighted the rights you have as a volunteer to ensure a positive volunteer experience. Along with these rights, you also:

As a Volunteer You Have the Responsibility

  • To make clear during the initial interview your interests, skills, expectations, preferences and availability.
  • To be aware of the general purpose of the agency and what’s expected of you before accepting the assignment.
  • To accept the assignment with the intention of following through in a dependable manner.
  • To notify your designated supervisor of necessary absences as much in advance as possible.
  • To participate in any training required by the agency.
  • To accept supervision and guidance and comply with the regulations of the agency.
  • To respect the confidentiality of agency and/or client information.
  • To discuss satisfactions, dissatisfaction and suggestions for upgrading or changing your assignment with your supervisor.
  • To be willing to respect the competencies of others and work as part of a team with all staff and other volunteers.

In an upcoming blog post, we will cover 1 more key topics that should help both prospective and current volunteers improve their service experience:  How to Get the Answers You Need.

Senior Corps-RSVP AARP Tax Aide Volunteers Help Seniors Save More Than $700,000!

2017 July 17

Do you know anyone who has said, “Yay, tax time is here! What fun!”

Of course not. Tax laws can be mind-boggling and change from year to year. For seniors, filing taxes can be especially costly and stressful-IRA distributions, interest income, withholdings-the list goes on. And using a professional accountant for even the simplest 1040 often strains a limited budget.

That’s where the AARP Tax Aide Program comes in. For seniors in the Northwest Suburbs the program keeps the headache and stress to a minimum, thanks to Senior Corps-RSVP members, Marilyn and Chuck Neuman and their team at AARP’s District 11 (three sites in Arlington Heights, two sites in Des Plaines and one site each in Elk Grove Village, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect and Palatine). This year alone district volunteers helped more than 2,800 seniors wade through seemingly endless schedules, deductions, and receipts saving them over $700,000 in filing fees.

Marilyn and Chuck Neuman are lining up volunteers for the 2018 Tax Aide program

Marilyn has been volunteering since 2004; Chuck started four years later. She’s a retired high school math teacher who always prepared her own taxes, so when she saw an article in AARP magazine calling for people to assist seniors in filing, she called. Helping seniors has always appealed to her, and this area of volunteering was the perfect fit. One of the reasons she continues to do it is the satisfaction of seeing the relief on a senior’s face after the taxes are in order, receipts sorted and appropriate lines filled in.

She tells the story of a widow whose husband had always prepared their taxes. “She was very nervous; didn’t know what documents to bring so she had a brown Jewel grocery bag full of all kinds of documents. We up-ended the bag on the table and sorted through. After finishing her taxes, she was really relieved and happy, and knew what to bring the next season.”

Marilyn and Chuck Neuman are lining up volunteers for the 2018 Tax Aide program

Marilyn serves as the Coordinator for District 11, managing nine sites. There are a total of 104 volunteers and many, about 36, are Senior Corps-RSVP members. She’s responsible for training, processing all prospective volunteers and certification reporting to AARP and the IRS. She also holds a state-level position as part of the Management Team for all of Illinois north of I-80, and handles the volunteer data base information for over 700 volunteers, 134 sites and 24 districts.

Chuck is District Technology Coordinator. He takes care of the equipment loaned by AARP and the IRS. There are a total of fifteen AARP laptops and 35 IRS laptops used in the district in addition to printers and routers at each of the nine sites. Keeping them all up and running from January through April can be nearly a full-time job.

Eighty-nine of the 104 volunteers in the district handle the actual tax preparation. There are five positions involved at each center.

“The Client Facilitator (greeter) is the first face the taxpayer sees,” Marilyn said. “He/she confirms the accuracy of the appointment, begins the intake process, helps the taxpayer complete the intake sheet and arranges the taxpayers’ forms.” This is a position perfect for those who don’t feel comfortable with crunching numbers. Facilitators are not required to certify in tax law, so those positions are open to anyone who likes to work with people and is detail-oriented.

The Tax Preparer interviews the client to learn what is needed to prepare the return and enters it into the IRS software, reminding the client that information on the return is the taxpayer’s responsibility. The Quality Reviewer is a more experienced volunteer and as the name implies, this person reviews the return for accuracy. The Electronic Return Originator transmits the information to the IRS. And finally, the Site Coordinator makes sure everything runs smoothly, arranging with the site host for appointment and volunteer scheduling, and is the go-to person if a taxpayer has questions.

Incidentally, for those who can easily navigate codes, apps installations, etc., Chuck can always use assistance in the technical department.

The tax preparation volunteers can give themselves a solid pat on the back for all the returns they helped file this year-specifically, 2,874 returns in all for an approximate taxpayer savings of $720,000, based at $250 per return. To qualify for the free tax return preparation service, taxpayers do not have to be seniors or AARP members. There are no minimum age limits or even income limits at this time, although the program is designed to serve low to middle income seniors. Tax Aide personnel will prepare taxes for anyone with an uncomplicated return. This year the average income for tax clients was $30,000.

Marilyn Neuman (left) participated in the recent Volunteer Fair at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Senior Corps-RSVP member Carol Spitz (right) is the library’s Tax Aide site coordinator.

Marilyn Neuman (left) participated in the recent Volunteer Fair at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Senior Corps-RSVP member Carol Spitz (right) is the library’s Tax Aide site coordinator.

These who are interested in volunteering for the program should keep in mind that tax law training will be held in January. New volunteers are trained for six days; returning volunteers for two days, plus one morning for policy training for all. New volunteers with a busy schedule can use a combination of online training, self-study and classroom learning. Certification and tax preparation tests are open-book. Volunteers are not subject to liability since all are protected by the Volunteer Protection Act.

Marilyn says that those who are detail-oriented with good computer skills and a desire to help others, would make perfect candidates for the AARP Tax Aide volunteer program. The best part-no experience needed. Training materials are provided. For 2018, the Tax Aide District 11 anticipates needing additional tax prep volunteers.

AARP Tax Aide District 9 will need additional volunteers to prepare tax returns at the Bloomingdale Senior Center and Glendale Heights Senior Center. Training for these two locations is for three days.

Written by:
Janet Souter
Senior Corps-RSVP Member

How to Achieve a Positive Volunteer Experience – Part 1

2017 July 10
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

Volunteering is a wonderful life-lengthening experience. Studies show that volunteering can be beneficial to those served as well as to volunteers. Volunteers help organizations reach critical goals while sharing or learning new skills increasing their socialization

Volunteering can be a very positive experience, but ensuring that happens is as much the responsibility of the volunteer as it is the organization. In fact, the burden is on the volunteer to be diligent in researching the organization and its environment to find the right fit.

As a Volunteer You Have the Right

  • To have a prompt, personal interview with the director or coordinator of volunteers.
  • To be assigned a job that is worthwhile and challenging and that will use your skills or help you develop new ones.
  • To have a clear understanding of the job, including requirements, responsibilities, time commitment, training, and supervisory structure.
  • To be given a copy of the volunteer job description for your own file.
  • To receive orientation to familiarize you with the staff, facilities, and program.
  • To have periodic evaluations of your volunteer service with upgrading or change of assignment when feasible or desirable.
  • To be informed of agency benefits, such as reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses and insurance, and of tax deductions allowable for volunteer expenses.
  • To receive regular recognition both formally and informally.
  • To be kept informed of what is going on in the agency through newsletters, staff meetings, etc.
  • To ask for a new assignment or return to HandsOn Suburban Chicago to explore other volunteer opportunities.

In upcoming blog posts, we will cover 2 more key topics that should help both prospective and current volunteers improve their service experience:  Volunteer Responsibilities, and How to Get the Answers You Need.

Impact of Senior-Corps RSVP members highlighted at HOSC Recognition Brunch

2017 June 12
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

On May 18, during Senior Corps week, HandsOn Suburban Chicago celebrated and recognized the accomplishments of our Senior Corps-RSVP members. At a recognition brunch held at the Metropolis ballroom, attendees enjoyed a delicious meal. Together we celebrated the outstanding accomplishments of Senior Corps-RSVP members who helped provide a total of 85,000 volunteer hours to area nonprofits!

 

See more photos!

The impact of the contributions of Senior Corps-RSVP members made during our Senior Corps-RSVP fiscal year, ending March 31, 2017 were shared at the recognition brunch.

  • 180 Senior Corps-RSVP members assisted 253 adult learners improve their English language skills to become better prepared parents, neighbors, and increase employment opportunities.
  • 83 Senior Corps-RSVP members painted the exterior of 16 financially disadvantaged seniors enabling them to remain in their homes with pride.
  • 67 Senior Corps-RSVP members processed thrift shop donations resulting in additional revenues.
  • 56 Senior Corps-RSVP members tutored 372 students helping them improve academically.
  • 52 Senior Corps-RSVP members helped 1,149 filers complete their income tax returns, saving them the cost of tax preparation fees on average of $250.
  • 46 Senior Corps-RSVP members transported 305 older adults to medical appointments.
  • 34 Senior Corps-RSVP members delivered meals to 458 adults helping them to continue living independently.
  • 27 Senior Corps-RSVP members provided services for disaster preparedness.
  • 24 Senior Corps-RSVP members provided specialized skills to our member organizations helping those organizations do more with fewer dollars.
  • 18 Senior Corps-RSVP members supported food distribution pantries to 3,899 individuals helping to alleviate hunger.
  • 250 Senior Corps-RSVP members volunteered as advisory board members, animal and farm care, administrative and staff support roles, airport guides, art, craft, knit and crochet groups, choir members, current and special events assistance, hospital and nursing home activities, instructors, and homeless shelter workers.

Senior Corps-RSVP Members and Parents Make School Cool!

2017 May 25
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago

Middle School Students Enjoy Enrichment Activities at CHiL Fest

What keeps students on track to graduate from high school? Studies have shown a sense of belonging at school is vital to bolstering academic engagement. Positive social relations with community members have likewise been proven to inhibit risky behavior, ensuring kids in grades 6-8 stay on course to succeed at the secondary level.

To promote school connectedness among the students of Cooper, Holmes, and London Middle Schools (CCSD 21), HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC) teamed up with the Chicago Fire and Journeys │ The Road Homea nonprofit that serves the homeless—to organize an afternoon of enrichment and service learning. The event, CHiLFest, took place at London in Wheeling on Friday, May 5.

CHiLFest’s other fun activities included a tai chi lesson taught by former London teacher Gary Puhy and a slime workshop run by HOSC’s schools project director Jess Park. Moved by its meditative component, one 6th grader who was previously unfamiliar with the martial art let everyone know he needed more of it in his life. The slime-making station elicited similar feedback from many of the students. They enjoyed discovering for themselves the properties of magnets as well as color science. The kids furthermore wanted to know when CHiL Fest was going to happen again.

7 Senior Corps-RSVP members and two parents kindly gave their time to facilitate the event, which had over 100 registrants. All the Senior Corps-RSVP members who participated also volunteer as tutors at various schools. Most of them serve at CCSD 21’s middle schools through CHiL—HOSC’s afterschool program. They served lunch and chaperoned the children as they rotated through each station. The students were thrilled to see familiar faces and to have the opportunity to bond with community members without homework deadlines looming.

The majority of the families CCSD 21 serves are classified as low-income. They rely on school and community resources to offer their children access to enrichment activities, which are vital to cultivating school connectedness as well as to their overall development. Research has proven that when children, especially those at risk, feel they are part of a caring community at school, they are more likely to attend school regularly, earn higher grades, and abstain from drug use and other destructive behaviors. Positive social relations with caring adults likewise help students feel connected to their school milieu. To make a difference, consider volunteering at a school in the fall.

If you are unable to commit to giving your time, you can help by making a small gift of $25 to cover the event’s cost for one student. CHiLFest was made possible thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous family foundation. Enrichment events, such as CHiL Fest, were eliminated from HOSC’s offerings after its funding for School Programs was slashed in half. Contributions from people like you would enable HOSC to offer CHiL Fest and similar programming next school year. A donation of any amount would be welcome.