ASHLEY WITKOWSKI, MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST
A staggering 75 booths—manned by individuals hailing from nonprofits across Collier County—lined the walls at the Hilton Naples. A therapeutic riding center sat next to an organization dedicated to combating adult illiteracy, which was kitty-corner from a nonprofit that builds bikes for children in need—to name only a few. Despite the uniqueness of each organization, there was one consistent quality that wove its way through each one: a passion for helping others.
The Leadership Collier Foundation (LCF), of the Greater Naples Chamber, hosted the 5th annual Get Involved Collier! Volunteer Expo on Oct. 21. In partnership with United Way of Collier County, the Community Foundation of Collier County and Greater Naples Leadership, LCF sought to provide a venue that would connect community members with volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits. With dozens of organizations with which to network, attendees were able to discover one (or several) groups dedicated to causes that they are passionate about.
Mete Timur, of Pilotcar EV and a member of the Leadership Collier Class of 2020, said he attended this year’s Volunteer Expo because he “wants to help.” With scores of nonprofits in attendance, Timur was able to find several groups he didn’t know about.
Among those were JDRF and Help a Diabetic, two organizations supporting and advocating for people living with diabetes. It’s a cause close to Timur’s heart, since his son has Type 1 diabetes.
“I would like to help them with our own experiences,” he said.
Exhibitors, who were able to connect with potential volunteers, also found the event beneficial.
Steve Kissinger, the chief operating officer at Meals of Hope, said he thought it was a great opportunity for community members to learn more about his organization.
Kissinger has attended the Expo with other organizations in the past, and said he was hopeful it would help Meals of Hope “gain exposure to a newer, broader community.”
“We need to leverage 35,000 volunteers a year, so this will help to get the word out,” he said.
Being that link in the community is a big part of why the LCF continues to host the Volunteer Expo year after year.
“The Volunteer Expo is our way of providing a natural connection point for volunteers and nonprofits in Collier County,” said Amanda Beights, vice president of the LCF. “The Foundation wants to educate and engage our community members to inspire collective impact. The expo is a great place for individuals to see the full scope of volunteer and board opportunities while supporting matching needs for local organizations in our community.”
Another reason why the LCF hosts the Volunteer Expo is because it knows volunteering—from serving on a board of directors to cleaning up a public park—has been proven to promote overall happiness as an employee and a community member. In fact, a paper published by Harvard Health suggests that weekly volunteering leads to happiness levels comparable to receiving a significant raise. It also states that when people collaborate as volunteers, they begin to build connections based on shared values, creating a stronger community.
For the first time this year, the LCF invited expo attendees to participate in three breakout sessions led by various community leaders that explored different volunteer-related topics.
John DeAngelis, co-founder of DeAngelis Diamond, led a session on building an intentional company culture that includes volunteer initiatives to support talent development and retention.
“Not only is volunteerism the right thing to do, it is good for business,” said DeAngelis. “It helps you attract the right team members, and it assists in creating a culture of empowerment and opportunity.”
Another breakout session—featuring Missy Lamont, executive director, and Anthony McClure, president of the board of directors, from Naples Therapeutic Riding Center—explored how organizations can build successful boards as well as how individuals can make the most of their board experiences.
“Board members are the fiduciaries who steer the organization toward a sustainable future,” said McClure. “We as board members owe it to our organization the duty of care, loyalty and obedience.”
Spencer Smith, director of programs for United Way of Collier County, led the final breakout session on best practices for connecting with volunteer opportunities.
“The value of connection is the most important component of volunteering,” said Smith. “The connection makes people feel more engaged and content in their community.”
The Volunteer Expo is proud to have facilitated connections between 300+ community members and 75 local nonprofits dedicated to serving needs in Collier County. Here’s to a more connected, content and engaged community.
Click here for a list of organizations that participated in the 2019 Volunteer Expo.
To learn more about LCF, visit www.NaplesChamber.org/leadership.