Celebrate Service Nationwide – Join HandsOn Twin Cities for Make a Difference Day 2014!

Volunteers at Hidden Falls Regional Park on last year's Make A Difference Day .

Volunteers at Hidden Falls Regional Park on last year’s Make A Difference Day

Make a Difference Day – The Largest Day of Service

Annually, on the fourth Saturday of October, millions of volunteers come together to make a difference in their communities.  Make a Difference Day is a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors and individuals coming together to improve the lives of others. On this national day of service, anyone, regardless of age or resources, can make a difference through large organized volunteer events or simply by raking a neighbor’s yard. Make A Difference Day truly celebrates volunteers and the spirit of giving back through impact on both small and large scales.

We invite YOU to join HandsOn Twin Cities in service on Make A Difference Day, October 25th, 2014.

Join us for a family friendly volunteer project at North Mississippi Regional Park, which offers spectacular views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding woods and prairie. Here you will find abundant wildlife in action: a Great Blue Heron nesting on an island, deer foraging, a beaver felling trees, hawks and eagles soaring overhead. In summer, the prairie flowers provide ever-changing color. Volunteers will have the opportunity to collect native prairie seeds, build pollinators to help bring back the bee population and remove invasive buckthorn from the area. All of these efforts will help maintain and improve the natural habitat along the river.

2013 MADD volunteers got creative making bird feeders, seed packets and seed bombs.

2013 MADD volunteers got creative making bird feeders, seed packets and seed bombs.

This event is open to ALL so please bring your family, friends, fellow volunteers and anyone else who might be interested in spending the morning along the shores of the Mississippi River!

Click here to register today on the HandsOn Twin Cities Website!

If you have a question about the project please contact Meghan Morse at meghan@handsontwincities.org

We’ll see you there!

Amy Tasto, Building Friendships and Family at Loaves and Fishes

Each month, we highlight a volunteer making a big difference for one of our affiliate partners. This month, we are pleased to honor Amy Tasto, a dedicated volunteer at Loaves and Fishes in Minneapolis.

By: Keith Chellsen, Loaves and Fishes, Minneapolis

As a volunteer with Loaves and Fishes in Minneapolis, Amy Tasto plans and coordinates special activities and programs at the Loaves and Fishes dining site. She spends a great deal interacting with the guests, establishing friendships and determining the needs they may have.

Amy has spent countless hours in visualizing, planning and coordinating special events at the Loaves & Fishes dining site. She initiated donations of over 100 coats, jackets, gloves, hats and mittens (enough that there were no families that went without). She has also developed and overseen a craft area for the children at the site and stocked it with supplies for them to use.

Amy was also the inspiration for a summer block party event that brought together kids and adults alike to celebrate with games, treats and prizes. She worked closely with city officials, park departments and civic organizations to make the event happen. Using her skills at event planning, she then went on to organize a 300 person Christmas celebration complete with gifts for Loaves and Fishes families.

Amy shares her selfless dedication, empathy, compassion and genuine love of the program each day. She has worked tirelessly, and committed hours of her own time to help create a welcoming and accepting atmosphere of friendship and family so that our guests always feel at home. She epitomizes the mission of Loaves and fishes and we are grateful for the service she gives each year!

For more information on Loaves and Fishes please visit their website at http://www.loavesandfishesmn.org/.

Julie Panning, Making an Impact through ‘Impact Now’

Julie PanningEach month, we highlight a volunteer making a big difference in the community. This month, we are pleased to honor Julie Panning, a volunteer through the HandsOn Twin Cities Impact Now program.

Name: Julie Panning

Tell us about the volunteer work you’ve been up to recently.
Recently, I have been volunteering once a month at the Family Service Center in Maplewood as part of the Bedtime Stories Project.  This is a supervised reading & play time with the children who are currently staying at the service center. It gives the parents a time to take a break knowing that their children are in a safe & fun environment.  These are families in transition, a difficult situation, and it feels good to be able to help them in a small way. Not only have I had the opportunity to interact with some energetic, fun and adorable children, but I’ve also had the good feeling associated with, as one mom said, giving them a “break from reality.”

What motivates you to volunteer?
My daughters motivate me to volunteer.  I want them to see me living my faith by putting it into action, and that is why I help others. We believe all of our blessings come from God, and we are called to serve others.

Tell us about a meaningful or enjoyable memory from your volunteer work.
Each time I make a connection with a child it is very meaningful to me. It may be holding a baby and making him laugh, or teaching kids a new card game and watching someone’s eyes light up when they win.  Knowing that the children had a good time is a wonderful feeling, and I’ve left each night with a smile on my face.

How has HandsOn Twin Cities helped you serve the community?
HOTC has definitely helped both me & my husband serve our community.  It was easy to search for opportunities that worked with our schedule, & sign up for a project in an area that interested us. I hope to keep using HOTC to find volunteer opportunities in the future.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering?
When I am not volunteering, I am a busy and blessed stay at home mother to Maria and Susanna. Spending time with my husband and daughters is very important to me.  I also enjoy reading, knitting, cooking, and baking.

Global Youth Service Day, Week of Service

By: Carly Bandt, HOTC Youth Advisory Board President

“GYSD was an eye opening experience that let me clearly see how a community of high schoolers could come together and work as a team for the greater good”

This statement, expressed by Mei (Photo 1) after volunteering at the Week of Service Global Youth Service Day event, illustrates the impact volunteering can have not only on the recipients of service, but also on those who dedicate their time to help others.


Photo 1: Volunteer Mei Li begins working on her set of alphabet flashcards to donate to an after-school tutoring program in Minneapolis.

While planning my GYSD project, my vision was to spark collaboration within my high school in order to encourage fellow classmates to become involved with service, in addition to helping various nonprofit organizations with a variety of “speed volunteering” projects each day after school.


Photo 2: Students gathered together with friends to write letters to girls in Malawi, a beautiful country in Africa.








It was remarkable how many students, many of whom had never volunteered before in their lives, were drawn in by the uplifting spirit that was created when we all gathered together in the front entrance of our high school with music, an informational booth on volunteerism, and of course, plenty of delicious food!

Said volunteer Christine Kao (Photo 3): “I liked that so many people who didn’t know one another were willing to join together to achieve something greater than themselves … even if they just did it for the food!”


Photo 3: Volunteer Christine Kao scoops ice cream for hungry volunteers after they turn in three dog toys to donate to Can Do Canines, an organization that trains seeing-eye dogs.

Although some students did show up for less than altruistic motives, a large majority became very engaged with their work, and asked how else they could become involved by volunteering on a regular basis at the organizations we supported throughout the Week of Service. By bringing GYSD directly to students rather than making them take the initiative to sign up and get transportation to the event themselves, we were able to reach almost 200 students.

Photo 4: Colleen Patty cuts fabric to create a baby bib to donate to Bundles of Love, an organization that gives baby clothes and supplies to low-income families.

Photo 4: Colleen Patty cuts fabric to create a baby bib to donate to Bundles of Love, an organization that gives baby clothes and supplies to low-income families.

Said Colleen Patty (Photo 4): “My favorite thing was probably the accessibility of GYSD. It was amazing to help people without even leaving the school. Many students have busy lives, and the ability to volunteer right at school is wonderful.”




Although planning my first GYSD was a challenge, with plenty of mistakes, stressful moments, and obstacles to overcome, the way I felt when I mailed 171 letters to girls in Malawi, 139 dog toys to service dogs at Can Do Canines, 263 baby bibs to Bundles of Love, and 35 sets of alphabet flashcards to an after-school tutoring program made the entire endeavor worth it!

Lynn Marquardt, Bone Builder

Lynn VOA photoEach month, we highlight a volunteer making a big difference for one of our affiliate partners. This month, we are pleased to honor Lynn Marquardt, a dedicated volunteer for Volunteers of America-MN’s RSVP program.

By Rachel Laurie, Volunteers of America – MN, RSVP Program

Lynn Marquardt volunteers as a Bone Builders class leader at Dickman Park Apartments in Minneapolis. Bone Builders, a signature program of RSVP, is an osteoporosis prevention exercise class that removes economic barriers by providing free classes for older individuals that may not have opportunities for exercise otherwise.

She has taken a very diverse group of Bone Builders class participants and has formed a unified family. She incorporates the cultures and languages of the class participants by counting in different languages and teaching new words to bring familiarity and a welcome environment, and encourages the class to respect and honor each other.

Lynn organizes parties and celebrations for the class and provides a great social atmosphere for the class participants who may not have other opportunities. Her charismatic charm and ability to include everyone has transformed the social and cultural atmosphere, as well as the health, of a diverse group in Northeast Minneapolis. Through her tireless efforts to include everyone, she makes all feel that they are welcome and an important part of the community.

Thank you, Lynn, for choosing to make a difference!

Find out more about volunteering with Volunteers of America – Minnesota.


2014 Summer Volunteer Guide: Be The Change

The 2014 Summer Volunteer Guide brings you more than 50 opportunities to make a difference this summer—from projects you can do at home to volunteering at a summer camp. Through these projects, you have the chance to make an impact on youth, seniors, the environment, and so much more.


Each opportunity is organized by theme, and lets you know what to expect and who to contact. We also let you know which opportunities are suitable for youth or teens, and which opportunities are group-friendly!

New This Year! All volunteers are eligible to receive an “I Volunteer” card, giving you access to discounts at Twin Cities businesses throughout the year. If you participate in an opportunity you find in the guide, email Rachel Jackelen (rachel@handsontwincities.org) and tell her about it! She’ll send you a card you can start using right away. For more information about “I Volunteer” cards, check http://www.handsontwincities.org/thankyou

Be sure to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for information about additional ways to engage in your community throughout the year.

Happy Volunteering!


We Are All In This Together: Building a Healthy and Lively Volunteer Program

Rut Kessel and Patricia Harmon are Volunteer Manager and Executive Director of CornerHouse, a not for profit dedicated to listening to children and teens for the past 25 years. They are presenting “We Are All In This Together: Building a Healthy and Lively Volunteer Program” on June 13 at HandsOn Twin Cities. Read on for a sneak peak of what to expect from their workshop.

We have worked together for 3 years. Right from the beginning we acknowledged a mutual respect for the role we each played as Volunteer Manager and Executive Director. We worked consistently in a sort of professional “dance” in which we partnered to assure that we built and sustained a vibrant and dynamic volunteer program at CornerHouse.

We are excited about the presentation we will be making at HOTC and decided it would be fun to work on this blog together. We also agreed to ask each other questions because it reflects the mutual interest in, and appreciation we have for each other’s work. We’ll talk more about that in our presentation!

Rut: Increasing volunteer usage within a changing organization takes a special kind of change agent. How do we motivate the staff to make sure all volunteers feel welcome and useful, and projects truly benefit from volunteer/staff teamwork?

Patricia: In many ways the challenge for a change agent is consistent with the inherent issue of change in any organization: figuring out what the new approaches could be and convincing everyone that the new order will be better than the old. It’s also very important to work with individuals and teams in a participatory approach so that each person has an opportunity to contribute to the new structure.

In our organization, we needed to change the big picture before the volunteer program could grow. We needed to begin to realize a vision that we are a community organization and that we wanted to, needed to, invite the community in.

Initially, this was difficult. We did a lot of staff training and conversation about delegation, looking at what work could be shared. We also talked a lot about how to value the contributions that volunteers made. We chose leadership in our volunteer program who assured that there was success for both the staff and the volunteers. Without that leadership, the program growth would have failed.

In a couple of cases, we had to literally just give it a try. When it worked, the team came on board. They loved having volunteers sharing their work and participating in our day to day activities.

Patricia: Recruitment of volunteers would seem to have at least a couple of dimensions: one, the practical, detailed tactics and two, the energy and feeling behind finding a good match for our organization. What are some of the elements of your motivation and can you give us a couple of examples of what you find works really well in recruitment?

Rut: Recruitment for CornerHouse is very specific depending on position. In all recruitment efforts I make sure that I have the tools in place I will need, like detailed position descriptions; applications that let me find out skills and motivations; and various forms I will need for the hiring process. 

I start recruitment by casting a very wide net, and then as I receive applications and inquiries I can start my sorting process.

When interviewing for our Administrative positions, I make sure the candidates have the admin skills we will need for the various projects we have. We are always willing to teach and train, but we also have to weigh how much of that we will have time for. 

When interviewing for our Forensic volunteers, I look for interpersonal skills; skills around children; clear understanding of confidentiality; healthy boundaries and so on.  One type of recruitment is very technical while with the other, it’s more dependent on my gut reaction.

When recruiting keep an open mind and be a good sales person for what you are recruiting for. Volunteers would like to help and be part of something. But they would also like to get something out of it. Find out what that is and make sure that is something you can provide them with.

We will see you soon! We are looking forward to sharing and learning from you.

To learn more from Rut and Patricia’s experiences, join them on June 13 at 9:00am.