McALLEN — As school year winds down, students looking for ways to keep busy during the three-month summer break now have help finding volunteer opportunities.
The United Way of South Texas can match volunteers with opportunities during the summer months, as well as throughout the year.
It all begins with a simple online platform organized by the organization that serves both Hidalgo and Starr counties called Volunteer South Texas. There, in a few simple steps, someone’s spare time can be made valuable to a local nonprofit organization.
Eloise Montemayor, community relations and public sector associate for United Way of South Texas, said Volunteer South Texas is a resource to connect agencies to volunteers.
“Volunteer South Texas is just another way to connect with people and give back,” Montemayor said. “If they’re not going to give back financially, but give back through their time and it’s just another way for them to connect.”
Since the program launched in the fall of 2015, 130 agencies have registered through United Way of South Texas in search of volunteers. The following year, the volunteer program merged with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley-Office of Student Academic Success Engaged Scholarship & Learning to broaden volunteer opportunities to university students.
Some of the agencies that have listed their needs are International Museum of Arts and Science, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Rio Grande Valley and The Salvation Army, among others.
“We help guide them through the process and help navigate the portal and on the site on their own, but we provide the instruction for them,” Montemayor said about how agencies could connect with volunteers. “We suggest, since the merge, that they use the university sign-up and they’ll have access to university students.”
Most of the agencies posted through Volunteer South Texas are nonprofit organizations within the area. The registration asks simple questions, but all that is needed is a working email address and a password to enter the portal.
One agency that has benefitted from Volunteer South Texas is the International Museum of Arts and Science, who relies on volunteers to assist with museum duties.
Claudia Martinez, IMAS volunteer and marketing coordinator, said they get the most volunteers through the university.
“Each semester we get a new group of students and some of them stay as volunteers. Seventy percent are UTRGV students, but also just general people who are looking at Volunteer South Texas,” Martinez said. “We had an event on Earth Day for Volunteer South Texas Week and we had some people from different high schools in the area and students from UTRGV show up and help around the museum.”
The minimum age to volunteer at the museum is 16, but in some cases agencies require they be 18 years and above. Details about volunteer requirements are listed on the website.
“We usually have anywhere between 30 to 45 volunteers around each (school) semester and the summer we will have more for the summer camps and probably higher end of the 40s, but throughout the year, it stays in the 30s,” Martinez added about the volunteer impact.
Additionally, Martinez said volunteers enter the museum shy and unsure of their future, but when they end their term, whether it’s a year or longer, most volunteers show growth and leave with confidence.