Did you know that Anne Arundel County has a volunteer center? The Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center (AACVC) has been around since 2000, connecting almost 4,000 volunteers yearly with area nonprofits. Last year those volunteers contributed about 75,000 hours for a value to the community of almost $2 million (based on the 2014 $26.41/hour independent sector value for volunteer time in Maryland).

That’s quite a return for an organization that has a budget of only $125,000 and two full-time equivalent staff members (and some volunteers, of course).

The AACVC, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit itself, partners with more than 390 nonprofits and faith-based and government organizations and helps them expand their capacity by augmenting their staff with volunteer recruiting professionals and an online volunteer search capability.

At www.aacvc.org, volunteer hopefuls can search for opportunities that support animals or the elderly or children, look up their favorite nonprofit and see what volunteer opportunities they offer, or visit the site’s Opportunity Calendar and see what opportunities are available on a particular day. There are also special links for students and skilled volunteers that filter opportunities for each of these special categories of volunteers.

Skilled Volunteers Needed

Gone are the days when nonprofits needed volunteers for addressing envelopes and setting up chairs (well, okay, they sometimes still need that). Today’s nonprofits need information technology professionals, social media experts, marketing professionals, engineers, grant writers, lawyers, accountants, drivers, carpenters and the list goes on and on. In fact, when they register, the AACVC offers volunteers a list of 250 skills that they can select and rate themselves on, and the center will contact the volunteer directly when an opportunity using those skills arises.

And everyone has special skills. A stay-at-home mom has invaluable skills as an advocate for children and other vulnerable populations. People who are meticulous and organized make great additions to office staff.

Student volunteering is a priority, also. In addition to the special portal it has for student volunteer opportunities, the center works directly with area schools to encourage meaningful volunteering by connecting schools with nonprofits and helping to organize projects that benefit both the nonprofit and the students.

The AACVC also engages its partners with the schools to enhance learning. For example, connecting the Anne Arundel Conflict Resolution Center with the schools teaches students about resolving situations instead of simply confronting them. And opening their eyes to the needs within their community and showing them that they can make a difference provides a great learning experience as well.

Connection With Businesses

The AACVC partners with businesses as well. Corporate sponsorship is essential, but just as important is the opportunity for businesses to engage their employees in meaningful community service.

Studies have shown that corporate-sponsored or at least corporate-encouraged volunteering increases employee morale. In addition, it builds teamwork and enhances leadership skills. Plus, the business not only helps its community, but typically will get good press, which is always good for business.

Volunteering also helps with business connections, as volunteers frequently engage with representatives from other businesses and community leaders. “I make at least one new business connection every time I volunteer,” noted Lisa Spallitta, an information technology consultant and systems engineer in Annapolis who is a skilled volunteer with the center.

Connecting With the Community

“It’s all about making the community a better place for all,” said Stephanie Vitrano, vice president of the Volunteer Center. For example, the center supports the local nonprofit Notes in Coats, helping to collect warm coats for children in need and engaging other children to write notes of inspiration that they can tuck into the coat pockets. And always a favorite, the center, at its events, includes a table for those dropping by to write a note of thanks or encouragement to members of the armed forces. Volunteers with Operation Welcome Home distribute these notes at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and witness the smiles of appreciation from those who protect this country’s freedom.

In April, the volunteer center will partner for the ninth year with the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services and more than 90 service providers to coordinate Homeless Resource Day. Last year, the center recruited more than 500 volunteers who assisted local homeless individuals and families to obtain vital services. In just a few hours, someone can get a new birth certificate, talk to a lawyer about credit problems and have a painful tooth extracted, for example.

Volunteers get paid with hugs and smiles. Volunteers hear the words “thank you” more than most. Volunteers are happy and healthier. Volunteers make the world a better place. The AACVC stands by all of those statements and encourages the community to volunteer.

Fay R. Mauro is executive director, and Bruce Morgenstern is president, of the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center (www.AACVC.org), in Annapolis. They can be reached at 410-897-9207 and 410-353-7218, respectively.