Love & Volunteering Go Hand in Hand

Chris & Shelly - Feed My Starving Children_Coon Rapids, MN_2

Chris & Shelly Zenner volunteering at Feed My Starving Children.

Post courtesy of Shelley Zenner, Co-Founder of IHeartVolunteers.

Twin Cities couple Chris and Shelly Zenner recently launched iHeartVolunteers, a dating site for individuals passionate about giving back to their communities. The Zenner’s jumped at the chance to combine their passion for volunteering with connecting like-minded individuals. They want the love of service to bring people together, as it did for them.

The couple had an instant connection when they began their long distance relationship seven years ago. They both wanted to help improve the lives and communities in which they live through volunteerism. But, the fact that they were both service minded individuals was not the only thing that drew them together. Compassion, a sense of adventure, flexibility and most importantly the desire to help people were, in fact, the core values that they both had been looking for in a partner. These are all values that seem to go hand in hand with those who choose to volunteer.

Why volunteer? Of course, there is the obvious reason, to serve and make a positive impact in your community, but here are a few other reasons:

  1. Volunteering makes you feel better. Research shows that volunteering may improve your mental health and make you feel happier.
  2. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people. The Zenner’s saw this first hand. Shelley states that they have several friends who met while volunteering and are still together to this day!
  3. Looking for love while volunteering will also save you money. No need to spend big bucks on dinner and a movie, all you need is a good attitude and the willingness to help.
  4. And of course, It’s fun to serve!

If you’re already a regular volunteer or if you’re new to the scene and need some direction, you can visit the Hands On Twin Cities website and utilize the volunteer search database.

If you are looking to increase your odds of meeting that special someone, don’t forget to check out iHeartVolunteers! Sign up for free today as their community grows! For a limited time, they’re offering a free three-month subscription to all verified volunteers!

Do good, together!


2015 Spring Guide to Volunteer Opportunities

Now that warmer weather has finally arrived here in Minnesota, we can begin to celebrate spring and all that comes with it (hopefully that doesn’t mean snow in April). This year, HandsOn Twin Cities hopes that you will celebrate your spring with service! The 2015 Spring Guide to Volunteer Opportunities has over 80 volunteer activities and events that you can do with your friends, family, co-workers, or on your own. You’ll find one-time as well as ongoing opportunities, special events, group projects and more. Whether you want to help youth, animals, the environment, or something else altogether, you can use this guide to make an impact.

Download the 2015 Spring Guide to Volunteer Opportunities here.

Spring Guide Cover

Presenting the 2015 ‘Be the Change’ Award Winners!

Congratulations to the outstanding ‘Be the Change’ Award winners, announced last month at the 2015 Volunteer Expo. These individuals were honored for their service to their community through their longstanding volunteer work with nonprofit organizations in Minnesota. This year’s pool of award winners included individuals who had volunteered upwards of 15 years, flown across the country to provide service, raised over 75,000 dollars for their organization and more. We are thrilled to highlight the amazing work that has been done by these dedicated volunteers! The award winners received a certificate of honor, and the nonprofits that nominated the winners received a financial donation on their behalf.

Award winners - group

Be the Change Award Winners (from left) Bob Scholz, Tom Rustemis, Anna Rice and Julie Gilbertson.

The descriptions below are summaries taken from the nominator letters provided by each nonprofit organization.

Bob Scholz, DARTS


Award winner Bob Scholz with nominator Erin Walloch and Glacier Hills Elementary teacher, Ms. Kelly.

Bob has been a dedicated, passionate, reliable and consistent Learning Buddy since 1998. Bob mostly helps students in the subject areas of math and science. If Bob’s volunteer hours are calculated, he has spent over 1800 hours in Ms. Kelly’s room! Bob provides opportunities for students to express themselves, learn, and have fun while doing it! Bob makes an impact in the classroom, school and his community by encouraging students, building their confidence, and supporting their learning. He is an inspiring community member who is greatly appreciated by Ms. Kelly, her students, Glacier Hills Elementary, and DARTS.

Tom Rustemis, Be the Match


Tom is renaissance volunteer, serving well over 50 hours a month in multiple capacities for our many program areas of the National Marrow Donor Program, and Be the Match. Tom has acted as volunteer chair for the Minneapolis Be the Match Walk+Run. This is a fundraising event that helps patients with blood cancers like leukemia find a marrow donor and receive a life saving transplant. Tom also provides his expertise in logistics and training as a mentor for other volunteers. Tom serves as a committed volunteer courier, hand carrying and transporting bone marrow donations by plane, train and car from wherever the donor is in the world, to the patient waiting for a second chance at life. Tom offers his courier service for some of our most complicated courier trips which can be arduous and exhausting. Tom’s impact is enormous! His volunteer gift has contributed has contributed directly to Be the Match through his dedication to changing how we do our work, fundraising, awareness, support and in his efforts to help a generous marrow donor provide the gift of life to a patient looking for a lifesaving change.

Julie Gilbertson, Metro Blooms

Julie has volunteered with Metro Blooms for 11 years, in various different roles. Julie has served on the board for the organization, chaired annual community events, spread Metro Blooms’ mission at expos, led fundraising events and much more. Volunteers are drawn to Julie’s leadership, dedication and creativity. Along with volunteering as a garden evaluator, she has also contributed her environmentally savvy expertise for numerous stormwater projects in the community. She is a tireless volunteer, always dreaming on how to improve things, engaging clean water conscious folks, creating amazing decor, and all with such humbleness and an aversion to recognition.

Anna Rice, Pinky Swear Foundation (Outstanding youth volunteer)

Anna was inspired to get involved with Pinky Swear Foundation ten years ago when she was just 7 and participated in her first MiracleKids triathlon. Over the past ten years, her passion, drive and involvement with the organization has made herNO9A0427 Pinky Swear’s #1 fundraiser for kids with cancer and their families She began by just raising pledges specifically for the triathlon, but each year her ambitions grey and she began placing with the top 5 fundraisers with other creative ideas for raising money. To date, Anna has raised over z$75,000 dollars for the Foundation and last year raised $25,000! Her involvement does not stop at fundraising. Anna is a top leader for the Youth Leadership Corps, and this summer she will be working as a Junior Intern where she writes and oversees a blog that communicates important events, fundraising tips, triathlon preparation advice and films how-to videos encouraging other kids to get involved.

Do you have volunteer stories to share and celebrate? Comment below with your stories of the volunteer superstars in your life!

2015 Volunteer Expo: Celebrating 10 Years!

HOTC Final

This past Valentine’s Day, thousands of people shared their love of volunteerism with HandsOn Twin Cities at our 10th annual Volunteer Expo. A huge thanks to those of you who stopped by and visited the nonprofit booths, participated in speed volunteering and braved both the cold and the crowds at Mall of America to attend the event.

This year, HOTC was excited to have 94 organizations on site sharing their mission and opportunities with Mall of America guests. Ten of these organizations offered ‘speed volunteering’ opportunities that allowed Expo visitors to engage in quick volunteer activities. Hundreds of people stopped for 5-15 minutes to speed volunteer. Volunteers participated in many different projects including:

Tshirt Making

Volunteers making t-shirts to donate to a local nonprofit

  • Tracing patterns for baby clothes with Bundles of Love
  • Packing snack packs for dining sites serving youth with Loaves and Fishes
  • Bagging powdered laundry soap with PRISM
  • Working with Resource, Inc. to decorate journals for men, women and children impacted by mental illness or addiction
  • Making fleece dog blankets and fleece dog toys for Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota (RAGOM)
  • And many more!
best booth, group

Best booth winners!

Congratulations to Ramsey County Sheriff’s Fright Farm Haunted House for winning Best Booth! They went all out to make their booth as scary as their haunted house! Honorable mentions go to AARP Minnesota, Tamarisk, Minnesota Literacy Council, Gibbs Museum and Matter for creating fun, colorful and engaging booths to attract Expo visitors.

Be The Change: Congratulations to the HOTC Be The Change award winners, Julie Gilbertson (Metro Blooms), Bob Scholz (DARTS), Thomas Rustemis (Be the Match), and Anna Rice (Pinky Swear Fountation). Each award winner was given a certificate of thanks and the nonprofit they serve received a financial contribution on their behalf. Keep an eye out for a future blog post with more information on each of these amazing volunteers!

Award winners - group

Be the Change Award winners and their nominators.

Ten Years Strong: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Volunteer Expo. We have had many dedicated nonprofits that have attended this event each year. We are happy to share this exciting anniversary with the following nonprofits who are ten year veterans of the Expo!

  • The Arc Greater Twin Cities
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities
  • Catholic Charities
  • Cheerful Givers
  • Great River Greening
  • Helping Paws
  • Kids ‘n Kinship
  • Neighbors, Inc.
  • Can Do Canines
  • Ramsey County
  • The Aliveness Project
  • RSVP Program- Volunteer of America of MN

These organizations have hauled loads of materials, braved mall parking, and spent long hours talking to mall-goers in order to spread their mission. The Expo would not be the event that it is without these organizations. Thank you affiliates!

You Retweeted for HOTC! This year, Mall of America generously offered to host a retweet campaign on behalf of HandsOn. For each retweet of their Twitter posts about the 2015 Volunteer Expo, the Mall donated $1 to HOTC! We raised over 500 dollars with the help of MOA and YOU! Thanks to everyone who took the time to retweet for HandsOn.

The Expo would not have been possible without the wonderful support from our lead sponsor Thrivent Financial. A big thanks to the Thrivent employees who volunteered with HOTC throughout the event day! In addition, we would like to thank 3M, Mall of America, Thomson Reuters, Xcel Energy, Greater Twin Cities United Way and Ameriprise Financial along with our other in-kind supporters; KARE 11 and Amanda Cox Graphic Design.

Were you there? If you attended the event, please leave a comment and tell us about your experience! We’d love to hear how you heard about it, the connections you made, and how you plan to use the information you found!

Thanks to everyone who was involved. Together, we can all Be the Change!

Celebrating MLK Day with Service

Mt. Airy 6

Volunteers from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and Dakota County read with children from the Mt. Airy Boys and Girls Club.

This past Monday volunteers celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in a day of service for their communities here in the Twin Cities. In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast, General Mills Foundation partnered with HandsOn Twin Cities to provide impactful volunteer opportunities for employees from local corporations as well as community volunteers. Through this initiative and our partnership with General Mills Foundation, we were able to help organize 15 volunteer events around the Twin Cities, that will engage over 400 volunteers.

This week we will work with volunteer groups from General Mills, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Ecolab, 3M, Dakota County, Target, Land O’ Lakes, Carlson, Best Buy, Cargill and more. These groups will join us in service at local nonprofits such as the YWCA, The Boys and Girls Clubs, American Cancer Society, Project for Pride in Living and many more. We are grateful for these volunteers who took the time out of their day to participate in these projects.

You can watch the 2015 MLK Day Breakfast on TPT, or view a recap of the breakfast and volunteer projects on WCCO.

Volunteer Group After

A group of 3M volunteers after painting at the YWCA.

If you weren’t able to give back on Monday, join us this week at our last open MLK projects! We have open spots for community volunteers to participate in special volunteer events this Thursday and Friday.

Help Sort Donated Food for MLK Week (January 22)

Join Governor Dayton’s Council at Second Harvest (January 23)

For questions about MLK volunteering, please contact Ellie (

HandsOn Twin Cities Welcomes in the New Year!

Blog picLast year was an exciting and eventful year for HandsOn Twin Cities. We saw many busy weeks as we managed dozens of corporate volunteer projects, put on large scale events like the Volunteer Expo and worked with our nonprofit affiliates to promote their volunteer opportunities. In 2015, we are excited to bring in the new year with new changes to our staff and Board of Directors!

We are happy to introduce Rose Maanum, who is joining the HOTC staff as Special Projects Director. Rose comes to HandsOn from Target Corporation. She has experience in both corporate and small business settings and we are excited to welcome her to the HOTC team!

HOTC is also thrilled to welcome 7 new members to our Board of Directors in 2015. The HandsOn Twin Cities Board of Directors creates a solid backbone for our organization and is responsible for giving insight and expertise into the volunteer, corporate and nonprofit worlds. We are excited to add new expertise from a variety of organizations and corporations in the new year.

New board members include:

Miranda Hirner
Miranda Hirner is an Associate at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. She has served as a law clerk with Target Corporation, a judicial extern with the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota and has marketing experience with the Wisconsin School of Business and Wisconsin Alumni Association.

Colleen Murray
Colleen serves as a Human Resources Coordinator for General Mills Corporation. She has worked extensively with HR at Carlson Companies, as well as Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

Sheila Snapp
Sheila Snapp joins the HOTC board as a Community Relations Specialist at Thomson Reuters. Her experience in community relations and corporate responsibility will be an asset to our 2015 Board of Directors.

Susan Schuster
Currently the Senior Community Relations Consultant at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Schuster is a passionate advocate for community involvement. Experienced leading community nonprofit initiatives and collaborating across corporate, nonprofit and government sectors to accomplish goals, Schuster has extensive knowledge of the Twin Cities’ community, corporate and nonprofit players and tirelessly pursues her passion for making meaningful connections between people, organizations and opportunities.

 Andy Goldman-Gray
Andy Goldman-Gray is a Founding Partner at AGG Marketing and Consulting. Andy is a senior-level marketing and development executive who excels at translating vision and strategy into action and results. His extensive experience provides him with the ability to position a brand, drive results and lead teams through understanding data, analysis and viewpoints and shaping them into a clear, cohesive vision through people oriented leadership and creative and strategic thinking.

Mathew Beaulieu
Mathew Beaulieu is an enthusiastic and positive individual who enjoys helping others in all aspects of life. He started working with HandsOn Twin Cities just over two years ago as a Project Coordinator with the Impact Now program.  Since then he has led three Impact Now projects, and is currently volunteering time directly to HandsOn Twin Cities to recruit and train additional Project Coordinators.He holds two Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Minnesota, with majors in Computer Science, Management Information Systems, and International Business.

Cathy Close
Cathy Close is currently an Employee Relations Specialist at Cargill Corporation. She has extensive experience in Human Resources with Cargill, and has a passion for giving back through her work with the Cargill Learn Program, Cargill Cares Twin Cities Council, Cargill e-Mentoring Program and more.

To view our full board member list please visit our ‘About Us‘ page.

Amanda Wanous, Facilitating Learning through Play

Each month, we highlight a volunteer making a big difference for one of our affiliate partners. This month, we are pleased to honor Amanda Wanous, a dedicated volunteer at the Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul.

By: Kim Nienstedt, Minnesota Children’s MuseumAmanda Wanous Photo

Amanda is truly an amazing volunteer and an essential part of our community at Minnesota Children’s Museum. As a Playologist, Amanda goes above and beyond what is required of her in her volunteer position. For example, the Playologist volunteer commitment is only 10 shifts, but Amanda has stayed at the Museum for an incredible 54 shifts and counting, with a totally of 180 hours contributed. With that being said, it’s not even the numbers that make Amanda stand out. As a Playologist, Amanda is able to showcase her love of learning by helping Minnesota’s children do the same. Each Sunday morning Amanda comes in to volunteer, the Museum is typically at its highest in visitor attendance. Amanda facilitates different educational activities while she is here and also does free play throughout the exhibits. She immerses herself in play in each of our galleries and not only makes the children have fun, but she also becomes a guiding link for each child to learn something new each time they visit.

Throughout her two and a half years as a Playologist and recently Free Sunday Team Leader, Amanda has showcased incredible leadership and customer service skills that make our Museum community that much more enriching for our visitors. Because of Amanda’s leadership, other volunteers are helping children learn even more effectively, allowing our Museum community to develop and grow. Amanda’s ripple effect on our volunteers has made her an incredibly outstanding addition to our volunteer community.

To learn more about how to get involved with the Minnesota Children’s Museum, visit their website at