United Way unites volunteers with causes

SAN BENITO — It’s like Facebook but for volunteering.

Three new volunteer platforms have been introduced to the community, making it easier for the volunteer and organization to recruit and track opportunities.

The Engagement Zone at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Volunteer RGV and Volunteer South Texas United Way of South Texas are platforms aimed to get people involved.

All are sponsored by the United Way, said Estela De La Garza, Program Coordinator for the Engaged Scholarship & Learning department at UTRGV.

De La Garza, a San Benito native, discussed in depth the program with the San Benito Chamber of Commerce at their “Coffee With” event this past week.

The difference between the three platforms is clear.

De La Garza said the Engagement Zone is specifically geared to UTRGV students and connects them with volunteer and service learning opportunities happening all across the Valley.

Through the Engagement Zone system, they are working to coordinate volunteer activities Valley-wide, De La Garza said.

By signing up on the Engagement Zone site, UTRGV students will be able to see and respond to organizational volunteer needs in real time.

The Engagement Zone is to be used solely by students at UTRGV.

“This also connects the students to service learning experiences that coincide with their classes,” De La Garza said. “Depending on what the agency needs, we can match the class with the organization.”

The other two platforms are geared toward the rest of the community. Anyone who would like to volunteer can register.

Organizations are encouraged to register.

Volunteer RGV specifically targets volunteers and entities in Cameron and Willacy counties while Volunteer South Texas’ specific demographic is in the upper Valley.

On all three volunteer platforms, users will be able to connect with hundreds of organizations, schedule volunteer hours and keep track of their volunteer hours.

For Lynne Pare, president of Keep San Benito Beautiful, the volunteer platforms are a gift.

About three weeks ago, Pare signed up KSBB in an effort to gain volunteers for several upcoming events around San Benito.

She has added volunteer position descriptions, the events dates, times and locations and how many positions are available to the volunteer at the time.

It’s a perfect alternative to a website which can cost an organization some money.

“We don’t have funding for a website. This acts like a website for us,” Pare said.

She’s right. The volunteer platforms, in addition to information about the events, also give students and the public a rundown on the organization.

“It’s also a good way to get the word out on different organizations,” Pare said.

The Platforms

The Engagement Zone: http://ez.utrgv.edu/user/login/

Volunteer RGV: http://www.volunteerrgv.org/

Volunteer South Texas: http://www.volunteersotx.org/

United Way

By the Numbers

$4.3 million earned in income tax credits claimed for working families through the volunteer income tax assistance program

6,608 children have home libraries and access to books in the community through United Way’s school readiness initiative.

555 volunteers have provided thousands of hours of service to the community.