United Way: volunteer opportunities

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — United Way of Southwest Michigan has a number of volunteer opportunities available for those looking to start their new year with a good deed. The following is a compiled list of volunteer jobs and descriptions.

• MLK Day of Service 2019 —

Opportunities coming soon

MLK Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 21 is a federal holiday dedicated to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in honor of his legacy and passion for serving others. People can mark their calendar now and stay tuned to volunteer.uwsm.org to find soon-to-be-posted ways they can participate in the annual MLK Day of Service.

• Fernwood Education Center weekend docent

People can join the Fernwood Volunteer Corps and volunteer in the beautiful new Sims Education Center. Friendly and excited volunteers are needed to greet visitors at the front desk and help navigate the building and library collection. Volunteers can expect the additional task of maintaining order in the building as well as event-specific tasks. Training is provided and all volunteers are subject to an application and background check process in this role. People can learn more at uwsm.org/volunteer.

• AmeriCorps “Safe Routes to Health” Members

Michigan Fitness Foundation seeks to inspire active lifestyles and healthy food choices through education, environmental change, community events and policy leadership. MFF’s newest initiative is an AmeriCorps program called Safe Routes to Health. Using a multigenerational approach to reach across an entire community, Safe Routes to Health AmeriCorps Members will connect citizens in underserved areas to health, wellness and physical activity resources while also recruiting and training volunteers for program sustainability.

Safe Routes to Health seeks three half-time AmeriCorps members to provide service between Jan. 7 and Aug. 30 at host sites in the target community of Benton Harbor.

Members will be given the opportunity to have a meaningful year of service in low-income communities, commit to civic engagement and participate in professional development activities such as social media promotion, program event coordinating and recruitment opportunities. Learn more at uwsm.org/volunteer.

• Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry

Fresh, healthy food tends to have a short shelf life. To make sure it gets to clients as quickly as possible and to increase the amount distributed, Feeding America West Michigan developed the Mobile Food Pantry model in 1998. Mobile Pantries are like farmers’ markets on wheels, delivering a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and baked goods to people in need, often on the same day the food is donated. Hosted by churches, schools and community centers, a Mobile Pantry can feed between 100 and 300 households.

To become part of the Feeding America Mobile Volunteer Force people can visit at uwsm.org/volunteer. This will be a reoccurring monthly volunteer opportunity to help with trucks on a regular basis. Join in distributing food, carrying heavier groceries for people who may need help due to a disability, and giving a smile to those that are currently experiencing food insecurity.

• Love Numbers? Become an IRS-certified tax preparer through VITA!

This opportunity is ideal for those who love numbers and want to volunteer with the single most effective program to help move people out of poverty? This holiday season, people can sign up for VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), the volunteer opportunity that makes an impact all year round.

By offering free tax return preparation to low- and moderate-income households, the VITA program ensures that individuals and families receive all tax benefits for which they are eligible, most importantly the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income working taxpayers and has been recognized as the single most powerful tool to lift children out of poverty in the United States. Depending on income and number of household members, the EITC can increase a family’s annual income by as much as 50 percent.

People can volunteer as often as they like for at least four hours a week, over a 10-week period, with a five-week minimum commitment, to make a lasting impact in our community. United Way will provide all training to become an IRS-certified tax preparer. Sign up now at uwsm.org/volunteer.

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