Diabetes Forecast

ADA's Volunteer Center Reaches Out Online

Houston volunteer Sherry Tarver-Grover

Volunteers are at the core of the American Diabetes Association's work. Now, people who give their time and energy to the Association have a chance to learn more and get more involved, thanks to the new online American Diabetes Association Volunteer Center. It is for new volunteers and veterans to share what they know.

ADA employees and volunteers built the new site with funding from the McKesson Foundation, which granted the Association nearly $700,000 to develop and maintain it. In the second half of 2011, volunteers and field office staff tested the site in preparation for its December debut, says Carole Fell, the ADA's director of community and volunteer development.

The main jobs of the Volunteer Center are recruiting, event sign-up, training, and networking. The center is a 24/7 tool to help first-timers engage with the ADA. Longtime volunteers will appreciate the opportunity to sign up for events of special interest to them. The center provides in one easy-to-use Web location the same training for certain volunteer roles as given in person at field offices. And it serves as an online networking hub, where seasoned volunteers can connect with newbies and parents of children newly diagnosed with diabetes can find other families who have been in their shoes.

Local ADA offices often cover a large service area. That can make it difficult for volunteers to travel to an office for several hours of training, and for staff members to get to communities to offer classes at convenient times. The center makes training available anytime online.

Sherry Tarver-Grover, PhD, CHES, a Houston volunteer with the ADA's Project Power program, which provides church-based workshops on diabetes awareness for the African American community, was among the first to test the new site. Tarver-Grover, who has volunteered with the ADA for four years, says the "pilot program didn't leave anything out. The same information is being used, the same information we use in the community. It's just easier to access, being online. I think it is great."

Here's how to volunteer with the ADA and get online training: First, visit the new Volunteer Center at diabetes.org/volunteer. Next, enter your ZIP code. Then, scroll through a list of upcoming events in your area. Choose the one that most interests you. Finally, follow the instructions to sign up as a volunteer and be trained.

Lori Bramlett, director of the ADA's Northwest Arkansas office, says the center helps in several ways. It gives volunteers a place to list their interests so that ADA staff can match them with events they're excited about instead of assigning them to whatever happens to be coming up. It also offers a simple way for current volunteers to engage their friends and family with the ADA.

What's more, Bramlett says, the center's parent mentoring program makes it easy for families of children with diabetes to get acquainted without having to travel long distances. "It will allow parents to connect with each other, especially in areas like mine, where we don't have a camp or Family Link activities," Bramlett says. "That's a resource they need."

Bramlett and others are enthusiastic about the center's potential to expand the ADA's volunteer ranks—which is exactly the goal of the McKesson grant, says the foundation's president, Carrie Varoquiers. The McKesson Foundation supports nonprofit organizations working to improve community health. For the past three years, it has focused on diabetes management. Partnering with the ADA was a natural choice, Varoquiers says. "By building the Volunteer Center, you will have a group of ambassadors that can grow exponentially," she says. "We really believe in the long-term payoff of this short-term investment. We believe it's going to be money very well spent."

Using the center, anyone can sign up to volunteer with the ADA now with no hassles. "Imagine what could happen if we harness the power of all Americans getting involved," Varoquiers adds. "It's an amazing opportunity we have in front of us."



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