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BRINGING VIP TO SHS

Volunteer Idaho Panhandle provides opportunities for students

Students+volunteer+to+help+with+the+annual+toy+buy.
Students volunteer to help with the annual toy buy.

Students volunteer to help with the annual toy buy.

Students volunteer to help with the annual toy buy.

Ciena Christensen, Web Editor

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Volunteer Idaho Panhandle (VIP) is an organization that aims to connect community members to volunteer opportunities tailored to their personalities and to encourage students to expand their volunteer options.

After witnessing the energy of Sandpoint community members to give back, Sandpoint Community Resource Center board member and VIP leader Becca Orchard was inspired to create a method to connect community members with organizations in need of volunteers. She hoped to create a tool for youth to find events that not only fit them as a person but create more fulfilling experiences.

“I think it’s possible for you as a young person to find something that’s kind of hidden that’s perfect for you and find something more in line that’s going to add value,” Orchard said.

VIP promotes the use of the website volunteerunited.org, created by the governor’s Serve Idaho campaign with the goal of achieving a central location volunteers can turn to as an information resource.

“My hope is that this is opening a door to exposing students to this opportunity…that this raises people’s curiosity about it, and that they come and explore,” Orchard said.

Volunteerunited.org provides information about the programs in one’s community looking for volunteers and allows users to filter volunteer opportunities by their location, interests, available times and other personal preferences. If users are interested in a particular organization they can choose to “become a fan” in order to be notified of events involving their desired organization.

Orchard believes that this accessible information is a great tool for students who are looking to become involved in their community. Students can easily be met with a variety of opportunities and find lesser known activities that allow them to serve in areas they’re passionate about.

“I want to make it easy for [students] to find the right and most meaningful volunteer opportunity,” Orchard said. “I think that there’s more opportunity for young people than they think and more opportunity even than organizations think.”

The site also allows students to clearly see the expectations of the job so they have more control with their commitment or time flexibility and are well aware of the requirements surrounding each event.

VIP also promotes different events through the social media feed of their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter which makes it easy for students to be alerted of chances to give back.

Orchard feels that beginning a habit of volunteer work in high school not only develops your character but sets up a life filled with the personal benefits of service.

“The most important lesson is that we do this not because we think we should but because when we experience it, what we experience is that it’s rewarding to us. That we’re winning, we’re getting something out of it. And if you can create those experiences for young people early its a lifelong practice because you’ve already learned that you’re the beneficiary,” Orchard said.

She also believes that the impact of youth on the community is unmatchable. The perspectives and vigor they add to their work allows others to grow their excitement.

“I was energized by all of the young people I got to work with. I was really impressed with their spirit of giving and their commitment at such a young age,” Orchard said.

Orchard’s ultimate goal is to create a community with service oriented youth that create a positive impact on today’s world.

“I just think in today’s climate kids get such a bad rap…all the attention and spotlight is on the negative. I just think it would be so cool if in our little town that we lifted young people up and we said look how cool our young people are and look what they’re doing,” Orchard said.

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